How the holidays have crept into my inbox


Donna Fulmer

Faced with another short season, retailers are challenged by the need to promote the holidays early, while at the same time recognizing fall themes. I’ve been taking a look at the emails from some top retailers and have observed a few different approaches:

Keeping them separated

I received one email from Lands’ End promoting Halloween. It was on Halloween Day and promoted nothing else:

Interestingly, this followed an email sent less than a week before, on October 25, which debuted the retailer’s Christmas Shop sandwiched between an Outerwear Guide and Fall Sale promotion:

Warming up

Other retailers attempt to get shoppers in the spirit of the season very early with un-seasonal Black Friday events. Lowe’s, for one, seemed to have jumped the gun when they sent an email on March 13 with the subject line, “Heads Up, Everyone! Spring Black Friday Sale Starts Today!” that had no reference to the event in the email itself. The same subject line then appeared with the correct email on May 1, announcing the illogical “Spring Black Friday Sale” that was taking place for two weekends, and proceeded to promote the event in seven subsequent emails:  

Lowe’s puzzled me once again, when on October 16 they sent this email with the subject line, “Save on Floors and Holiday Décor” that begins by referencing flooring installed by Thanksgiving and ends by promoting “Haunted Living” but includes no other holiday mention:


Similarly, on August 2, Victoria’s Secret encouraged me to “Shop like it’s Black Friday. August 8th is PINK Friday!” and then promoted the event in two subsequent emails – the day before and day of:

Fast foward to October 29, when the lingerie retailer quietly ushered in the holiday season with this email bearing the subject line, “Shhh. A Very Sexy holiday starts now”:

And then, in what appeared to be an attempt to acknowledge Halloween but continue the holiday theme, sent this October 31 email with the vaguely Halloween-ish but very clunky subject line, “Our treat: Free shipping with clothing & shoes ($25 min)”:


Subtly slipping it in

Other retailers have been slowly but surely sneaking holiday themes into their emails, but have not yet committed to a holiday subject line or exclusive holiday content.

Gap, for example, included this in the middle of emails sent October 6, 13 and 21 that featured an array of other, non-holiday promotions:


Then, besides a few emails referencing seasonal hiring, did not mention the holidays again until November 3, when they introduced the holiday gift giving theme with an email with the unlikely subject line “how we stripe”:

On November 2, H&M also slipped in its first holiday mention as the secondary part of the subject line, “Last day for free shipping + Classic home decorations for the upcoming holiday season,” for an email that actually focuses exclusively on holiday décor. I don’t know about you, but for me this email actually also “slipped in” the fact that this fashion retailer even sells home goods:

Jumping right in

And finally, other retailers have unabashedly kicked off the season. On October 31 – Halloween of all days – Forever 21 sent this email with the celebrity-charged subject line “Iggy Azalea & Nick Young Unwrap Holiday Style”:

Then on November 2, followed up with this email, which seemed to say that the season is in full swing:  

And finally, Walmart introduced “Holiday essentials at unbeatable prices” on November 1:  

 …and has maintained the holiday theme in every email since.

What interesting ways has the holiday season crept into your inbox?

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