This Is Why Supermarkets Roll Out Christmas Products So Early
"I almost screamed yesterday because I saw Christmas food in Woolworths".
There are still more than 100 days until Christmas, but mince pies, puddings and more holiday products are already appearing in the nation's biggest supermarkets.
But far from just a cynical money-making exercise to extend the 'Christmas season' from a few weeks into a few months, a retail expert said there were a few cunning long-term strategies at play in rolling out seasonal goods so early.
Scores of people have complained on social media in recent days about big stores like Woolworths and Coles already stocking their shelves with Christmas items.
"I almost screamed yesterday because I saw Christmas food in Woolworths already and not one single Halloween item," one person wrote on Twitter.
"Woolworths already has Christmas stock... it hasn’t even been halloween yet?!" said another on August 31, including the hashtag #ChristmasinSeptember.
"I don’t want to see Christmas stuff before the end of October," one man said.
Each year, like clockwork, people complain about seasonal holiday food and products being sold months beforehand, such as hot cross buns hitting shelves on December 27 last year, two days after Christmas and months ahead of Easter.
Retail expert Gary Mortimer, associate professor at the Queenland University of Technology's business school, said supermarkets -- far from dreading the controversy -- actually relish it.
"Any publicity is good publicity. They would be keen now to have media commenting and stories like '100 sleeps to Christmas and we’ve got displays up.' It gets their brand in the market," Mortimer told ten daily.
"They're using media to highlight that they've got seasonal stuff. Comments on Facebook will be that 'they're scamming us,' but people will still buy them because they've told everybody that they're on sale."
"Consumers demand it. While some people be up in arms about hot cross buns in January, they are on sale because there is a demand."
Besides the demand side -- indeed, Woolworths claimed it sold one million Christmas mince pies in September last year -- Mortimer said there were two main strategies at play in setting up Christmas or Easter displays early.
"By placing decorations, mince pies and other seasonal products on show 100 days out, it signals they are in the business of Christmas. Supermarket shoppers shop on average three times a week, so you're constantly walking past pies and candy canes, for the next few months," he said.
"So when you think about buying for Christmas, you know where to go. They've signalled to you from a consumer psychological perspective that they 'own' Christmas."
The second strategy is less devious and more about simple logistics.
"For supermarkets, Christmas is a one-week event because you don't buy food until the week of, then sales spike so dramatically, they can't hold enough inventory in warehouses to satisfy demand," Mortimer said.
"They need it in stores and out of warehouses now, to free up warehouses for other inventory coming through. Then, when you do go to shop for Christmas, the candy canes, bon bons and confectionary are already in stores."
Woolworths is aware of the scattered outrage over its stocking decisions. It took just 20 minutes for a company spokesperson to email ten daily with a statement defending itself.
"With Christmas a few months away, we know many of our customers love getting a sneak peek on what's to come for the season, while also looking for ways to manage their budgets at this time of year by purchasing items early in readiness for their Christmas celebrations," the spokesperson said.
"We also know many of our customers love getting the first taste of fruit mince pies and puddings as soon as they can and we see strong demand immediately when they hit our shelves - with 1 million fruit mince pies sold just in the first month alone last year."
Coles also told us their customers just want to tuck into a mince pie as early as humanly possible.
"Our customers have many different reasons for wanting to shop early for Christmas products with some liking to spread the cost out or plan ahead and do taste tests before the big event, others are catering for festive events and some just like to enjoy spiced treats like fruit mince pies and puddings," a Coles spokesperson said