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Yes, Christmas Candy Is Already Everywhere—Here's Why

This holiday season, all they want for Christmas is you(r money).

The department store in my neighborhood already had its full Christmas display in the window. Multiple Santas staring at me, surrounded by snowflake ornaments, chocolate snowmen, and ugly reindeer sweaters. Yesterday, when I entered the McDonald's next door, Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" was playing at full volume. Halloween may have been less than a week ago, but for retailers, the Christmas season is well underway.

This phenomenon is known as "Christmas creep," a term first coined back in the '80s. As the BBC explains, there's an economic reason to kick off the holiday season so early. Namely, the winter holidays are such a huge sales driver that every retailer wants to start cashing in as early as possible.

Christmas creep and holiday candy sales, explained

On the supply side, Christmas chocolate is a huge sales driver for the candy companies. In fact, 25% of Hershey's annual sales come from Christmas, Halloween, and Easter products, so it's in the company's best interest to get the ball rolling as soon as possible, with no lag time between Halloween and Christmas rollouts.

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For retailers, this is equally lucrative: Christmas candy functions like an eye-catching display all its own, prompting people to continue buying candy as soon as the Halloween loot dwindles. And it's not like stores can fill their seasonal display shelves with the (virtually) nonexistent category of Thanksgiving candy, although chocolate turkeys seem like a missed opportunity.

Christmas candy really is its own thriving industry. Brands drop new flavors and variants specifically for the holidays, like M&M's seasonal Mint flavor, or the new White Chocolate Toasty Vanilla, which, as much as I love white chocolate, sounds kind of gross. Since so much time and money goes into making and marketing these festive confections, they need to be for sale long enough to make it worth all the trouble.

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Although people may groan at holiday candy being available so early (just like they complain about pumpkin beer popping up in July), the data confirms consumers are nevertheless buying it. A new report from the National Retail Federation found that 43% of people start holiday shopping before November even starts. Since candy is cheap compared to other goods, it makes for an easy gift for your coworkers, or even for yourself. The prolonged availability means customers will keep going back to buy more Christmas candy throughout the season, and the longer that season is, the more return visits retailers will see.

The Christmas candy creep isn't just in grocery and convenience stores, either: Recipe sites are already pushing holiday candy recipes to their readers. The Pioneer Woman, for example, published its collection of Christmas candy recipes all the way back in September. Whether we're ready for it or not, the holiday season is here. I hope you like Mariah Carey.

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