Christmas hits the shelves in Tesco and Co-op earlier than ever

Sarah Coles
Chocolate Santas in Tesco in September
Chocolate Santas in Tesco in September

Christmas has hit the supermarket shelves a fortnight earlier than usual. Eagle-eyed shoppers in Tesco have found festive fare sneaking onto the shelves 114 days before Christmas - and in one or two cases as early as August 20 - 126 days early. The reaction is divided between those who can't wait, and those who aren't even over the financial hangover from the summer holiday yet.

The Tesco festive treats have been spotted all over the country from 1 September. The Facebook page of Christmas Trees and Lights posted a picture to its homepage of an entire aisle of festive fare, while Robyn Espinasse tweeted a photo of a similar aisle in a Tesco in Potters Bar, and Women's Hour presenter Jane Garvey posted a photo of chocolate Santas from a nearby Tesco taken on 2 September.

Meanwhile the Co-op also launched shelves of festive fair, which were tweeted by a number of people from 28 August.

Tesco is trying to get people to stock up on confectionery in advance with an 'early bird' poster on some of the aisles - playing on the idea that we'll buy these chocolates to spread the cost and put them aside until December.

Tesco's social media message reinforces this 'spreading the cost' message. When Stephy Roberts tweeted: "WHOOOOO! Don't mince about @Tesco - you get that Christmas aisle in already in SEPTEMBER", a Tesco staff member called Dave responded: "We're trying to help our customers spread out the cost of Christmas :) #EveryLittleHelps Thanks - Dave" And when Jason Stanton tweeted: "Someone just told me they have selection boxes in Tesco already ! Mad!" Tesco responded: "Christmas is coming! We've got to be prepared! #SantaClausIsComingToTown."

However, as Su Newton tweeted: "Naughty @Tesco stocking tubs of chocs IN AUGUST for Christmas. Us weak-willed will buy 'for Xmas' eat by Sep 15th and *have* to buy more.." As some social media users have pointed out, in some cases, the supermarkets blatantly expect us to buy these goodies and eat them early so we can buy more. Andy Goulding, a radio presenter from the West Midlands, tweeted a picture of a Christmas Yule Log he bought in his local Tesco which goes out of date in October.

This isn't the earliest that Christmas has ever come to the supermarkets. On 29 August last year we pointed out that the very first chocolates were on the shelves. However, this year there is more space being given over to seasonal produce earlier in the season. Typically the supermarkets launch these dedicated aisles in the middle of September - last year it was 18 September.

There are two good reasons for an earlier launch. The first is that the supermarkets are struggling. They know that people tend to trade up and spend more at Christmas - often trading up to a more expensive supermarket. If they can convince people they are in the Christmas holiday season, then their customers may spend more, and those they lost to the discounters may start to trickle back.

The second reason is that their customers are struggling too. Supermarkets are targeting people on lower incomes: the fact that Tesco has added a Christmas saving dimension to Clubcard for this group is another sign of the same thing. They know that in many cases those who are struggling to make ends meet will need longer to plan if they are to be able to afford extras at Christmas, and getting a tin of chocolates early is one way to help them do that.

The reaction on Twitter has been divided. One user posted: "Supermarkets, you can commercialize Christmas and start selling chocolate Santas on Sept. 1. But you can't sell the feeling. It's too early." Another sarcastically noted: "Good to see the Christmas chocolates in Tesco, I was beginning to panic!" And a third said: "Been to Tesco this morning and they have Christmas decorations up. So Christmas lasts 1/3 of the year!"

Meanwhile others were more enthusiastic, with one saying: "#Christmas !!! Yay!! #ChristmasIsComing love it #tesco" and another: "Tesco have their christmas stock out which makes me EXTREMELY happy".

But what do you think? Is it too early.

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