The answer to a seasonal question


Christmas decorations in the floral department of Walmart located in Monument

Jakob Aggers and John Morrison

Christmas time. The holiday season. As this time of year nears, we are again faced with an annual question: Why do stores put holiday decorations on the shelves so early?

In the Tri-lakes area, both Safeway and Walmart participate in these pre-Thanksgiving shelf stockings. Both of these stores in the community, and world-wide, have their own reasons for stocking the shelves.

Jillian Smull, the storewide manager of Walmart in Jackson Creek, answered this question with her views on why stores put out their holiday items so early.

“Believe it or not, it may feel early to you guys for shopping for Christmas items at that time, but what that allows for us to do is plan ahead better, as a company, as a facility, so we put our Christmas items on display early,” Smull said. “It really has to do with the amount of planning, and how much we have to get done in an extremely condensed amount of time.”

The Walmart management team believes that there is a need for this early stocking because of the amount of inventory that is delivered to each store.

“For seasonal merchandise, at this time of year, the amount of items we have increases by a lot. Like in our home area, where we get tablecloths that may have reindeer or Santa’s, that’s a separate department, but our inventory level goes up almost 1 million dollars during the holidays,” Sheila Finerty, a co-manager at Walmart, said.

Because of the large amount of Christmas and Holiday related merchandise coming in every day, large stores need to stock their shelves early so that there will be a good flow of holiday items from the back room to the shelves themselves.

“We want to have a place to go with that merchandise, so as it keeps coming in through November, we have a place to put it. As people keep buying holiday stuff, we can restock our shelves, and it makes for an ease of flow from the back to the sales floor, so that we don’t have a bunch of merchandise sitting in the back room just being held until the absolute last minute before the holidays,” Smull said.

In addition to the ideal flow of holiday merchandise from the backroom to the shelves, Walmart looks to help their customers in their special needs.

“If we were trying to just set merchandise December 1st, it actually would take away from us taking care of the customers because we would all be focused on trying to get items out to the floor, that we could have already had out. An empty counter doesn’t make me any money, and at the end of the day, it’s a business, we’re in business to make money, so it really helps to get everything out early so we don’t impede on our customers, whatever their needs are,” Smull said.

Another aspect of this early shelf stocking is that nationwide stores cannot choose when to stock their shelves with holiday items. Most times, there is a superior board that decides when to convert to a holiday theme.

“It is Walmart. We get told when and how to stock our shelves, and we have to follow those guidelines.” Smull said. “What it allows for, is if you are shopping at a store in Minneapolis or Colorado Springs, you are going to be seeing the same thing, and that is what we want. We are Walmart: one brand, one image.”

Aside from Walmart, another store in the Tri-Lakes area participates in early holiday shelf stocking. Safeway, a much smaller grocery store, also has seasonal items up for sale after Halloween. The store’s products often get sold almost instantly, especially the food and drink. The christmas trees and other decorations also sell quite fast, as it has only been two weeks and the store is already on their second wave of seasonal products.

“Food like the Cranberry Sprite, sells almost instantly, because people have been waiting for it. The glass Santas and other decorations always sell first,”  Catherine Brown, Safeway manager said.

All of the holiday products come in right after Halloween, and are up by November 1st every year. The Safeway company itself plans when all of the products go on the shelves early due to most people transitioning to the holidays after Halloween ends.

“Everybody just kind of transitions, but there are a few individuals that say ‘Oh my gosh, it’s too early’. People just enjoy this time of year and go into the holiday season; they get ready for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and family.” Brown said.

Safeway does not only have Christmas and Thanksgiving products, but the store respects all religions and holidays. This means the store will focus more on holiday-like decorations, not just one holiday in general, such as snowmen and plants decorated with bright red ribbons.

“We just promote the holidays,” Brown said. “We support everything, a lot of different religions, we just want to celebrate the holidays. Usually people are in good moods when they come in here, and we love that people are really getting into the spirit of it.”