Monday, November 20, 2017
Business

These retailers have already started playing Christmas music

RECOMMENDED READING


There's a line from a Raymond Chandler novel in which hard-boiled private eye Philip Marlowe surveys the scene along Hollywood Boulevard and grumbles that stores were "already beginning to fill up with overpriced Christmas junk, and the daily papers were beginning to scream about how terrible it would be if you didn't get your Christmas shopping done early. It would be terrible anyway; it always is."

The irony to the modern reader is that this grim complaint from 1953's The Long Goodbye takes place a week after Thanksgiving.

In 2017, when the phenomenon of Christmas Creep has inched some stores' holiday shopping displays and music back to October or earlier, those early Christmas displays that made Marlowe even more dour than usual wouldn't raise an eyebrow.

In Tampa Bay malls and elsewhere across the U.S., Christmas 2017 has arrived, visually. The massive sleigh and fake-snow-covered trees for Santa's Flight Academy at International Plaza have occupied floor space since before Halloween, and holiday decor began this week at Westshore Plaza in Tampa. The city's decorations are up along St. Petersburg's Central Avenue.

More subtle is the creep of Christmas music into our ears. Tampa Bay's b98.7 FM flipped to 24-hour Christmas music on Monday, and they're kind of late. According to industry news site Radio Insite, the nation's first station of 2017 to flip to all Christmas, all the time was New Jersey's Easy 93.1, which has been jingle bell rocking since Oct. 20.

In stores, the switch to holiday music can be carefully calculated to gradually immerse you in that warm bath of Christmas cheer. Walmart, for instance, starts Nov. 14 when it begins "sprinkling" holiday music into its regular mix, then gradually increases the ratio until they're 100 percent I'll Be Home for Christmas-ing by Black Friday.

More surprising: Walmart actually starts playing less holiday music the very next day, and gradually decreases the amount of holiday tunes until returning to normal the day after Christmas.

Target has, for most of its history, not played any music at all in its thousands of stores, holiday or otherwise. That changed this year as 180 newly-remodeled stores introduced background music. They'll flip to holiday tunes on Black Friday (all of the company's Tampa Bay stores remain totally music-free).

For the past few years, a great internet debate has raged on Twitter in early November. That's when those who can't seem to wait any longer admit proudly or sheepishly that they're already listening to Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas Is You.

 

 

 

 

They collide with the "it's not even Thanksgiving!" hardliners who are there to let you know they're angry about unwanted ear cheer, judging anyone who's enjoying it. One popular line in the sand seems to be Thanksgiving, the date many deem appropriate for earliest Christmas music listening.

 

 

 

 

The Tampa Bay Times reached out to 100 top retailers to ask, when do you start playing holiday music? Several dozen responded.

The southern California-based grocery store chain Stater Bros. was the only retailer we could find that waits all the way until December to start. Meanwhile, Best Buy began mixing in holiday tunes on Oct. 22, the earliest of any retailer that would reveal their plans.

 

 

Retail background music in general is more strategic than ever. There are consultants for helping retailers create playlists that are perfectly on-brand, and streaming music services made only for stores and restaurants.

Starbucks actually employs two people whose job is to curate the Spotify playlists played in all its coffee shops. That company, by the way, keeps its holiday music plans under tighter wraps than even the design of its hotly-awaited holiday cups. Dunkin Donuts offers franchisees a subscription to Dunkin Radio, where programmers with decades of experience in "background music programming" match music to the feel of Dunkins in different U.S. regions.

There's good news for Grinches : there's a trend toward less holiday music. Danny Turner, a programming executive with Mood Media, which curates and provides music for large retailers, says stores are blending holiday music with non-holiday music. Some are waiting later to start it, and some stores are choosing to go with very little, or none at all.

 

 

"Some of those folks look at it as making their store a welcome respite from the onslaught," Turner said. They're also thinking more about store associates who ultimately hear the music more than anyone, Turner said, because "if they're not happy, nobody's going to be happy."

That's part of why he advises retailers against novelty songs -- easy on the grandmas getting run over by reindeers -- or anything repetitive.

"The one I have in mind is The 12 Days of Christmas," he said. "That would be horrible. Once I'm at the third day, I'm counting how many days are left. You don't want any songs that feel like they last for 12 days."

 

 

Does this really affect business? Maybe. Studies have suggested that playing Mozart and Vivaldi in a wine store could make people buy more expensive wine, and that slow tempo music in restaurants might make people linger longer and spend more.

It might come down to whether you enjoy it or not. People who enjoy music will evaluate merchandise as better, and sales people as friendlier.

Whether you're overjoyed or annoyed by Christmas music, we can help. Here's a guide to some store plans in 2017.

Oct. 22 Best Buy started rolling out holiday displays and mixing in Christmas music on Oct. 22.

Nov. 1 Sears and Kmart started, with an increase through Christmas. Michael's started half-holiday music, increasing to 100 percent on Black Friday. Also: Lane Bryant, Maurice's.

Nov. 5 Ulta started sprinkling it in beginning Nov. 5, increasing to 100 percent by Black Friday.

Nov. 9 Belk goes 25 percent holiday from Nov. 9-11, then increases to 75 percent from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, then goes 100 percent Dec. 15 through Christmas. Also: H&M.

Nov. 11 Office Depot and Office Max.

Nov. 13 Walmart sprinkles in holiday music in regular stores, then a week later in Neighborhood Markets. They increase the ratio until it's 100 percent holiday music on Black Friday, then decrease it through Christmas, returning to normal the day after. Also: Dick's Sporting Goods.

Nov. 16 Verizon Wireless

Nov. 18 Staples starts, then gradually increases to 100 percent on Black Friday, then decreases to 50 to 75 percent holiday music until Dec. 18, then increases to 100 percent again until Christmas Day.

Mid-November Macy's, AT&T stores

Nov. 23 (Thanksgiving) J.C. Penney, Giant Eagle

Nov. 24 (Black Friday) Publix (and a spokesman will respond by saying they play "Christmas music" when you ask them about "holiday music.") Target has never played music in any stores at any time of year, but this year, 180 newly-remodeled stores are playing music for the first time, including holiday music startingBlack Friday. Also: Home Depot, Nordstrom, Whole Foods, Lowe's, Albertson's, Sprouts, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Foot Locker.

Late November Petco

Dec. 1 Stater Bros. supermarkets

Stores that vary by franchisees' or manager's discretion Sherwin Williams, True Value, Ace Hardware, Kroger, 7-Eleven, Subway, Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), Hy-Vee, Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Dunkin Donuts, Wegman's.

Companies that responded, but wouldn't reveal a date Starbucks, Apple, TJ Maxx, Ross, Ikea

Stores we found out never play any music, holiday or otherwise WinCo Foods, Costco, AutoZone, GameStop and the majority of Target stores

MORE CHRISTMAS

Santa School: Where Santas learn to respond to heartbreaking requests

Illegal Reindeer? Renting reindeer in Florida is a complicated process

Comments
Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them - with nudity, groping and lewd calls

Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them - with nudity, groping and lewd calls

Eight women have told the Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.Th...
Updated: 3 hours ago
St. Petersburg council okays restaurant deal for Manhattan Casino

St. Petersburg council okays restaurant deal for Manhattan Casino

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council on Monday approved a lease for the Manhattan Casino, a landmark building in the city’s historic African-American business and entertainment community.It was a controversial decision for some of the city’s black resid...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

APOLLO BEACH — The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Tampa Electric $18,108 and gave the company two "serious" citations for its response to a gas leak at the Big Bend Power Station in May, the agency announced late Friday.T...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Forecast: Florida retailers expect strong holiday shopping sales

Forecast: Florida retailers expect strong holiday shopping sales

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, and this year is expected to be particularly kind to retailers.The Florida Retail Federation’s holiday shopping forecast predicts that a combination of high consumer confidence, strong tourism numbers and a littl...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

TAMPA — If you tread water too long in the same spot, someone might start asking why you’re not trying to swim somewhere.Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands — parent company of such prominent restaurant chains as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Glenn Thrush, New York Times reporter, accused of sexual misbehavior

Glenn Thrush, New York Times reporter, accused of sexual misbehavior

The New York Times said Monday that it was suspending Glenn Thrush, one of its most prominent reporters, after he was accused of sexually inappropriate behavior.The move came after the website Vox published a report containing allegations that Thrus...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Unless you are ensconced in first class, sleeping on a plane is as intimate as dozing off in a waiting room on jury duty — everyone on the aircraft knows the decibel level of your snoring and the sad state of your socks.To gauge how passengers percei...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Updated: 26 minutes ago

Stolen car crashes in St. Pete, leaving passenger, 15, with life threatening injuries

Two boys in a stolen car struck a dip in the roadway and crashed into a tree, leaving the 15-year-old passenger with life-threatening injuries, St. Petersburg police said.The crash occurred about 11:25 a.m. Sunday as the car sped west on 11th Avenue ...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17

Search suspended for missing Cortez boater who left from Egmont Key

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for a missing 63-year-old boater on Sunday evening, two days after he and his dog were reported missing 5 miles northwest of Mead Point, just inland from Anna Maria Island.On Friday, Fraser Horne of Cortez le...
Published: 11/19/17