The Psychology behind Christmas shopping

With the holiday season coming alive for another year, we find ourselves surrounded by Christmas trees and Santas Ho, Ho, Ho’s echoing in the malls.

“We started decorating very early this year,” Katie Anderson, an employee of Macy’s department store, stated, “The first tree was up the second week of October. This is my first year working here and I knew Macys was one of the first to decorate but I never knew that early.”

But there is much more behind the holiday decorations than a man with a fake beard. There is a deeper psychological understanding behind the branches of the tree.

Kit Yarrow, an award-winning consumer psychologist, wrote an article on stating, “Psychological signals (decorations) work around our rational brains and they greatly influence our shopping behaviors.” Dr. Yarrow continues to explain how the holiday season can alter our 4 senses to spend more money.


The bright colors that follow the decorations bring an influence on both the customer’s moods and perception. Especially the colors of red and green. Dr. Yarrow explains a study was conducted among servers in which one group was wearing the color red, while the rest were wearing a neutral color. The servers wearing red received a 14% to 26% higher tip than the other servers.

The color green is associated with luck, money, and creativity. Thus, causing the consumer to spend more money and try and be creative choosing gifts.


“Smells make a direct hit to the emotional center of our brain.” Dr. Kit Yarrow stated, “Its no surprise that Bloomingdales, Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss, Victoria Secret and scores of other retailers use scents  to stimulate positive and associative moods to enhance our perception of their brands and products.”

Many studies have proven that a specific scent can make the shower either spend more or have a different view on a product. During the holidays the scent of pine can be smelt throughout a lot of retailers. This scent gives a psychological feeling of happiness and nostalgia.  Other stores will mix in peppermint with it causing a more sense of excitement with specific items causing consumers to spend much more than they typically would.


Sound is a more obvious one. With songs like “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey blasting through the malls, people are forced into thinking that Dec. 25 is just around the corner. This causes the customer to spend more and gift more. 


Surprisingly, a person would be more likely to buy an item after touching the item. “This is why most retailers will carefully design their store with merchandise roadblocks and tactile displays.” Dr. Yarrow explains. “We’re naturally drawn towards the center of a display, where retailers often place the pricier items.” This causes the consumer to touch the item.

Although retailers play a large part in starting the Holiday season so early, the consumers are to blame as well. In America, 90% of all Americans celebrate the wonderful holiday of Christmas. So to get people excited for the season to be merry, places will begin to decorate as soon as the ghosts go to bed after Halloween. So as you continue shopping, try and look for the sights, sound, smells, and feelings to see if your local shopping center does this.