When Should Small Businesses Decorate for the Holidays?

Walk into any department store, and it’s obvious: the holidays are upon us. The elaborate miniature winter villages, the glamorous plastic Christmas trees, and the reindeer sweaters seem decorate a solid chunk of the store, luring you into holiday splendor.

Every year, the ornaments and tinsel seem to go up earlier and earlier. Instead of waiting to decorate until midway through November, they move Halloween décor to an underused corner long before October 31, all to make room for the gingerbread house decorating kits.

But do small businesses 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.”

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?

“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.

So what’s your approach? Do you like to get Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa décor up pre-Thanksgiving because it’s fun—or a smart business move? Or do you hold off for any reason?