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The National Retail Foundation (NRF) recently announced its “New Holiday Traditions” campaign, encouraging consumers to shop for the holidays even earlier than usual this year — starting now.

And a recent Bloomberg article looked at several retailers that are doing just that, introducing everything from advent calendars to Christmas decorations at the beginning of October. Michael LeBlanc, a senior advisor at the Retail Council of Canada, said the message is to “shop early and shop often.”

But is this really the best that retailers can do? Does putting up Christmas decorations early this year make a difference in how your customers think about your brand?

If anything, it could incite a backlash. Having Christmas decorations and Christmas music in your store for what will now be more than a quarter of the year commoditizes what otherwise was a special season, without offering anything else to go along with it.

This is just a costume change. It isn’t a better script.

In the current climate, what we as retailers need is better scripts — proactive ways to overcome the unique challenges we’re facing.

Instead of hanging Christmas lights in October, there are several things you can do that will actively serve your customers and change the way they experience your brand. I explored some of them last week in a post looking at the ways Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus are transforming how they approach the shopper, from personalization to digital technology.

Many of these changes are very simple to make. Greet your customers by name. Appeal to them with products you know they’re interested in. Give them offers that focus on the things they’ve told you they really like. And offer services that make them feel appreciated and understood, like gift wrapping and personal shopping.
Provide them with a compelling reason to come in by offering a special event — perhaps showbranding with select adjacent brands to give shoppers a new and unique reason to visit your store.

A personalization strategy can help your customers shop both online and in-store, knowing that however they make their purchase, the process will be as seamless and as simple as possible. Your customers probably use the Amazon Wish List mechanism to save things they like on Amazon — but are you allowing them to build a wish list for your store, both in-store and online? Shoppers want to speak with you. Listen.

The point is, the Field of Dreams strategy no longer works in retail — you need to give your customers a strong and persuasive invitation to come to your store. Putting up Christmas decorations early won’t help if you aren’t actively exploring new ways to meet your customers’ needs in the current climate.