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Playing holiday music too soon can drive customers crazy, psychologists say

In this Dec. 24, 2011 photo, a last-minute shopper leaves the Toys R Us flagship store in New York's Times Square. A mall trade group said Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, that last minute shoppers gave merchants a solid lift during the final week before Christmas.
In this Dec. 24, 2011 photo, a last-minute shopper leaves the Toys R Us flagship store in New York's Times Square. A mall trade group said Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, that last minute shoppers gave merchants a solid lift during the final week before Christmas. AP

It’s November and retailers have already started pumping out nonstop holiday music.

But clinical psychologist Linda Blair warned that constant Christmas music too early can have a negative effect on our mental health.

“People working in the shops at Christmas have to learn how to tune it out. Tune out Christmas music,” Blair told Sky News. “Because if they don’t, it really does make you unable to focus on anything else. You simply are spending all your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”

Blair added that too much Christmas music can take a toll on consumers, as well.

"It might make us feel that we're trapped - it's a reminder that we have to buy presents, cater for people, organise celebrations. Some people will react to that by making impulse purchases, which the retailer likes. Others might just walk out of the shop. It's a risk," Blair said.

Victoria Williamson, who researches music psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, told NBC News in 2012 that there’s a “U-shaped” relationship with how much people enjoy Christmas music.

Sometimes, the holiday cheer can overstay its welcome.

"Anyone who has worked in a Christmas store over the holidays will know what I'm talking about," Williamson said. She added that music can have different effects on people depending on their state of mind.

However, a 2005 study conducted by Eric Spangenberg, dean of the College of Business at Washington State University in Pullman, found that a combination of “holiday scents” with holiday music made shoppers more likely to spend time in a store and return when compared to stores that just played holiday music.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Best Buy plays holiday music the earliest of the top 25 retailers in the U.S., starting on Oct. 22. It’s followed by Sears, Kmart, Michael’s, Lane Bryant/Maurice’s on Nov. 1.

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