Christmas can’t come early enough for retailers. Long before the air gets cold or the clocks turn back, sellers are keen to get shoppers in a festive mood, hoping it will encourage them not to leave gift buying to the last minute, and spend more overall.
Quartz has been tracking signs of Christmas creep for the past five years, as measured by the day that Oxford Street, London’s most famous shopping avenue, switches on its Christmas lights. In recent years, the elaborate light display has launched in early November, giving shoppers more than seven weeks to get into the holiday spirit. In 2011 and 2015, the lights switched on Nov. 1, threatening to break the October barrier.
This year, however, Oxford Street’s Christmas lights will power up on Nov. 21, the latest date since 2003. It will be the 60th year of festive displays along the central London thoroughfare, featuring a revamped design with 220,000 lights arranged in 27 LED curtains.
This has profound implications for our Christmas Creep Calculator, which harnesses the latest in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies—okay, the “Add Trendline” function in Microsoft Excel—to forecast the path of the Christmas shopping season’s gradual shift earlier in the calendar.
This year’s late lights switch-on ceremony pushes the date when crass commercialism overcomes seasonal sense (Christmas in July) all the way out to 2190. Will bricks-and-mortar shops event exist at that point?
When asked about its choice of date, the New West End Company, a promotional association that organizes the Oxford Street light display, suggested that people may have enough of Christmas creep. In a statement to Quartz, a spokesperson said:
“This year as we celebrate 60 years of lights switch ons, we thought we’d try something new and we are going late. We’ve had feedback over the years that people prefer a later switch on for a variety of reasons, one of which is sustainability, but we’d love to test this out.”
But will a mere month or so of full festive regalia be enough? We’re about to find out, and it could determine whether we return to the days of a shorter Christmas shopping season, or the calendar creep returns. “Next year we might go back to an earlier illumination but we’ll wait and see how our Oxford Street customers react to this new timing,” the spokesperson concluded.
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