In 2018, Thanksgiving fell on November 22. This 2019, it will fall on November 28. For those who don’t feel like doing the arithmetic, this basically means there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.

Impact of the Holiday Schedule for Retailers

So what does this mean for retailers? The immediate effects seem obvious. Retailers have fewer days to target holiday ads, fewer days to take advantage of increased holiday spending, and fewer days to ensure their packages get to their customers on time.

But there may be some other impacts that aren’t quite so obvious. According to Andrew Lipsman of eMarketer,

“Every year, shoppers go into the season thinking they won’t procrastinate — but it still happens, and most don’t really get going until after Thanksgiving. When shoppers find themselves in a crunch, there are inevitably discretionary purchases getting squeezed, particularly items they buy for themselves.”

According to a July 2019 study from RetailMeNot, only 1 in 3 consumers are aware of the shortened calendar this year. So if most folks stick to their usual patterns, they’re going to find themselves racing harder than usual to get their shopping done in time. And this means a lot of non-holiday purchases are going to fall by the wayside.

Combat the Holiday Time Crunch

A lot of retailers are combatting the crunch by encouraging consumers to get an early jump on their shopping with earlier than usual holiday promotions.

According to RetailMeNot’s study, more than half are planning on offering deep discounts and slightly fewer are going to kick off their holiday deals earlier than usual. In addition, 44% of the retailers surveyed plan on focusing their marketing messages on the shortened shopping season.

But Lipsman feels that offering deals earlier may not be enough to get shoppers off the couch and into the stores, since consumers have become conditioned over the years to expect the deepest discounts after Thanksgiving. Additionally, many consumers will insist on waiting until more retailers are offering holiday deals before they start shopping.

“The biggest lever at retailers’ disposal is to educate shoppers to foster a sense of urgency before Thanksgiving. While an individual retailer might be able to steal some market share by calling this out, it’s to the industry’s collective benefit if everyone carries this message to market.”