Convenience Store News Canada scrolled through some of the Instagram accounts of independents and small chains from last Christmas.
On its Instagram page, Jayy’s Cheers Convenience, for instance, which has a location in Toronto and one in North York. Ont., posted a limited-edition Warheads Holiday Pack on Dec. 22, an Elf-themed International Delight Peppermint Mocha Creamer on Dec. 13, and Lifesavers and Pillsbury candles on Nov. 1.
It also created a Holiday Treats Gift Guide on Dec. 10, which included gingerbread-flavoured Oreo cookies.
Outliers resisting the trend
Early holiday outreach turns some consumers off.
Still, both Hutcheson and Winder say a lot of people are looking forward to a different Christmas this year, hopeful of a return to some normalcy with in-person gatherings, and may welcome it.
However, at least one family-owned c-store chain feels this early-to-market strategy is too commercial.
“We don’t put anything out until Nov. 11,” says Gerry Bes, general manager at Little Short Stop Stores in Ontario. “We even ask our distributors not to ship anything prior to then, and if they do, we leave the merchandise in the backroom until after Nov. 11.”
Little Short Stop Stores keeps the focus post-Halloween on Remembrance Day and its support of the Royal Canadian Legion’s poppy fundraiser, explains Bes.
“What retailers are trying to do is get people to buy products early, and then use them before Christmas, so that they buy it again,” says Bes, who points out a lot of retailers take the same strategy to getting out early for Halloween with themed confectionary.
“And so, I understand the motivation,” he says. “But in some respects, I think retailers have lost the empathetic side of retailing, and are just very commercial.
“For us, it’s a question of where we draw the line, and we’ve decided to draw it there. We may lose some sales,” adds Bes, “but it’s more important for us to respect the remembrance of Nov. 11.”
Hutcheson agrees that retailers need to take a balanced approach.
“You might want to have some holiday stuff at the back of the store for now, and then move it up closer to the front in November, depending on your market and what the competition is doing,” she explains.