When Should Small Businesses Decorate for the Holidays?

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According to the National Retail Federation, 40 percent of shoppers start their holiday gift buying before Halloween. If your customers are ready for Santa in October, should you be too?

Every year, it seems that the holiday shopping ads and store decorations creep earlier and earlier into the fall.

Instead of waiting to decorate until midway through November, large department stores and national retail chains move Halloween décor to an underused corner long before October 31, all to make room for the gingerbread house decorating kits and other holiday items. 

But do small businesses also go along with this early appearance of red and green?

“Normally, we start around the end of November,” said Andrew DuCharme, the general manager of Lakota Coffee in Columbia, Missouri. “We normally just put up a Christmas tree and some Christmas lights.  A few presents around the store with wreaths and some other fun Christmas decorations. Some business may start this too early but I think I start the holiday buzz on a good time frame.”

“We decorate for the holidays, but in a minimal way,” said Steph Davies, owner of Waxwing, a local goods store in Shorewood, Wisconsin. “We don’t put up anything until after Thanksgiving. Personally, I like to celebrate one holiday at a time.”

Most national retailers like Walmart, Target and Macy’s start decking the halls with holiday décor in late October and early November. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, 98 percent of shopping centers start decorating during the first week of Thanksgiving, and 74 percent spend over $20,000 a year on holiday decorations.

“We might put out holiday cards or small items before that as people do start shopping for gifts in November, but we don’t go over the top. [This strategy] gives people a reason to come back and check for those holiday items later on,” Davies said.

As it turns out, most small businesses tend to wait until Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, to really kick off the holiday season. As an added bonus, many towns in the U.S. now throw local events to celebrate “shopping local” for the holidays, which helps bring in more foot traffic for small businesses.

Learn more about how small businesses and their communities celebrate Small Business Saturday in our Small Business Community Impact infographic.