Christmas Music in Retail – Tactical or Tacky?

Posted on Sunday, December 2, 2018 by Amy ListonNo comments

White backdrop with berries, leaves and branches.  A festive image. 

‘Tis the season of shopping, failed Pinterest DIY attempts and a lot of Michael Buble.  There is no denying that with the twinkling Edinburgh Christmas lights, the last couple of months in the year feel colourful, magical and surreal.  But the one thing we are all too familiar with is the Christmas music following shoppers everywhere they go.

Being quite the jolly Christmas lover that I am, I may be a little too enthusiastic about hearing “All I Want For Christmas” thirteen times in the working day, especially compared to the sighs and groans these songs receive from other workmates and customers.  So this is where I started to hunker down and think a bit more about why the songs are always playing in mainstream stores and shopping centres during all opening hours.

Now, to most people, their response to my query would probably be along the lines of “to drive us absolutely insane” but I’m beginning to think that although they may be correct in a sense, it could possibly be a tactic to get Christmas shoppers to spend more money.

When it comes to me and shopping, we don’t get along well, so Christmas is usually planning exactly which stores and aisles to go to, how to get to the till as quickly as possible and where the nearest exit is. But once I hear the Christmas music, it makes me feel happy and festive and reminds me of presents, which then makes me slow down, enjoy the songs and fun holiday vibes and buy a lot of stuff for a lot of people – and after working in retail during this period, it’s safe to say this happens to a lot more customers than I thought.  “I only came in for a look and now I have finished my Christmas shopping” or “I came for 2 things and have left with 10!!!”.  So this is where I decided to look into it a bit more to see if retailers were smart and sneaky with their soundtracks, or if it is really just to bring a bit of festivity to our lives.

I looked into it and discovered one of the main reasons for the music is that it is meant to bring us a sense of nostalgia, they usually play the iconic songs a lot of us have grown up with, which begins to make us think about past holidays and family time, maybe it reminds some folk of the bikes or really cool light up shoes in the exact colour they had asked for.  The point is that it makes us relive happy memories and makes us want to create more, thus getting us in the Christmas mood early and buying more presents than intended.  It’s like when they pump in the freshly made cake scent in the bakery part of Tesco and you instantly think “man, I really need cake right now“.  It makes you happy, hungry and purchase impulsively – that’s why some very Christmassy shops go the extra mile and light Christmas scents to add to the festive feel.

But why does it drive most people mad? It turns out that some places start the month with one out of four songs being festive, and as the weeks go they amp it up until it’s Christmas music only, which can become repetitive and annoying for some customers.  The reason they do this, I believe, is because it makes the starting weeks exciting yet relaxing, but by the end of the month and the constant Christmas tunes, it’s hard to ignore the incoming holiday, making people panic buy every itchy jumper, box of mince pies and festive socks that they see, either to be prepared for the big day or to get stuff so that they can run out of the shop and hide from Mariah Carey.

So whether you are a Grinch or a Who, it’s safe to say that these cheesy tunes have impacted your shopping baskets this year.



Written by: Amy Liston


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