Our Christmas trees are still up, but shops are already selling Easter eggs

Many retailers were selling Easter eggs before the end of December. Picture: IOL File

Many retailers were selling Easter eggs before the end of December. Picture: IOL File

Published Jan 2, 2024


Santa has barely hung up his cloak, there are still mince pies to be eaten, and most homes are yet to take down their lights and Christmas trees, but walking into some supermarkets one would think we are already in March.

Gone are the decorations and tinsel and all things festive and, in their place, are rows of Easter eggs and chocolate displays.

It is quite baffling, especially considering these sweet treats will only be gifted and enjoyed in 12 weeks’ time.

But while South Africa is not alone in this strange phenomenon as consumers around the world express confusion over seeing Easter eggs for sale in their local retail stores as early as Boxing Day, experts explain that there is a sneaky psychological reason for this.

Some retailers say that they are selling a small selection of Easter eggs to satisfy the needs of consumers who like to get ahead of the pack with their 2024 planning, but the truth is a little darker.

Speaking to UK publication The Mirror, Dr Cathrine Jansson-Boyd, a consumer psychologist from Anglia Ruskin University, says shoppers who think they are being practical by buying their eggs early actually end up spending more in the long run. And the reason why retailers sell these eggs early is because they are often on special offer, leading consumers to then think that buying Easter treats early, while they are cheap, will save money.

This trick also makes people think they can buy the chocolate treats they need little by little and not have to fork out huge amounts of money buying in bulk closer to the time. They think this shopping is smart – and retailers want them to think that. But it is not the real reason supermarkets are doing it.

“If you start buying mince pies in October because you want to put them away for December, you think 'ooh, I'll have one' – and then you have two and then you've eaten them and then you go and buy a new packet.

“Then as it's coming up to the festive period, you'll buy another one.

“So it's not because the shops want to start Christmas in October or Easter in January, it's just purely to get you to buy more, and little by little you'll spend twice as much.”

She adds that shoppers have been conditioned for a long time to think that consumption is important, and it is therefore very hard to change that outlook.

“It's just the way life has gone and I think we need to become dematerialised and understand that material possessions are not important,” she tells the publication.

Many consumers will also snap up Easter eggs now for fear of missing out on their favourites if they wait too long, psychotherapist Kamalyn Kaur tells Metro.co.uk. However, Easter eggs being in the shops already is a psychological strategy that encourages us to buy them now.

“Shops will often strategically introduce seasonal items well in advance of the actual holiday or event to create a sense of anticipation and excitement that can prompt early purchases. Seeing Easter eggs displayed now can serve as a visual or subconscious reminder of the event, which can encourage people to start planning their Easter celebrations well in advance.”

Furthermore, if Easter eggs are displayed earlier or introduced at cheaper prices then it can sometimes create a sense of urgency and scarcity, thereby encouraging consumers to buy sooner, fearing that the item might run out or the prices might get higher closer to the holiday.

“You might also find yourself buying the eggs now with good intentions of saving them for March, but over the coming months end up eating them,” Kaur says.

“Thus, you’ll have to go back and buy another one for Easter, and this could prove to be a bit of an endless cycle, depending on your powers of self-restraint, meaning you end up buying much more than you initially planned...The same is true of Valentine’s, Halloween, or Christmas candy that you find in shops well in advance of the big day,” she tells the news outlet.

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