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Sears' Christmas in July a Flawed Sales Ploy

Every year consumers complain how they're inundated with holiday sales promotions earlier and earlier before the season starts. It seems that retailers think that shoppers will forget about this time of year unless the stores remind us by clamoring for our dollar months in advance.

Now Sears is setting a thoroughly annoying -- and ill-conceived -- precedent by ramping up its holiday promotions with a campaign called Christmas Lane. A limited number of Kmart and Sears stores will also have a special Christmas section this summer. That's right: They want shoppers to start thinking about Christmas in July, when many in the country usually focus on summer vacations and warm weather.

Says retail analyst Burt Flicklinger III to Time magazine about the strategy: "It looks more like desperation than inspiration. It may be a sign that Sears' spring and summer inventory is not selling through." For its part, Sears says that customers want to buy items for the holidays earlier and now have a chance to purchase big-ticket gifts on layaway.

But how is that different from any other year? Couldn't people always stockpile Christmas items in advance if they wanted? It's not as if the Sears site is offering any exclusive products that people couldn't normally get any time they want.

A similar promotion by Toys "R" Us may make more sense, given that the retailer is specifically discounting popular items for a limited time. In the ever-changing toy world, though, some items that kids are jazzed about now might not be so attractive in November.

Not only is the Sears promotion unnecessary and annoying, one commenter on this story about its Christmas in July seems offended. "Families/people are trying to figure out how to put gas in their car, food on the table and pay a dr [sic] or a bill, and then they have to look at Christmas displays in July....SHAME SHAME SHAME."

The move by Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears is the latest in a recent string of wacky ideas. Sears, along with AOL launched their own news Web site focusing on happy headlines and, the retailer is testing a new-store concept called MyGofer that really doesn't know what it wants to be.