Professor Lathrop Shares Understanding of Holiday Shopping

Black Friday, Brown Thursday, Cyber Monday… There is an overload of deals surrounding every winter holiday season. Whether you take part in celebrating the winter holidays or not, you are more than likely drawn in to the shopping scene or come across a deal that captures your interest.

Of course, companies exert a significant amount of effort and make a great deal of money around this time of year. All businesses are trying to analyze consumer behavior and capitalize on it in whatever way fits their business model and serves their customers best.

To better understand this scene, we spoke to Whitman’s Professor of Marketing Practice, E. Scott Lathrop. Professor Lathrop was an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Harvard Business School, a Brand Manager at L&F Consumer Products, a Marketing Strategy consultant at The Analysis Group and Luminant Worldwide, and has had a host of other experiences, all described in his LinkedIn Profile. Professor Lathrop’s most recent research has focused on consumer perceptions of prices, product longevity, and private label branding.

“Historically, the holidays have provided a reason for people to shop – a socially acceptable, justifiable reason to splurge on items one might otherwise not consider,” said Professor Lathrop, mentioning that consumers are more willing to spend above their usual price-point on luxury goods for the purpose of gifting. But it’s not only luxury goods that participate in the seasonal sales. Once the pocketbook is open, a range of brands and products – from Mercedes Benz to Ocean Spray – experience robust holiday sales. As one of his first major projects, Professor Lathrop worked on an account for Ocean Spray, a company best known for its cranberry-based products – particularly in demand in the US during the holiday season.

And it’s not only the winter holidays that boost retail sales. A wide array of firms are making concerted efforts to beef up buying opportunities during other holidays and seasons, to encourage consumer spending. Starbucks, for example, introduces seasonal drinks like their Pumpkin Spice and Eggnog Lattes for the fall and winter while introducing new Frappuccino flavors in the warmer months. St. Patrick’s Day and the Fourth of July have become a focal points when it comes to consumers.

In addition to increased seasonal “hype” from retailers, there’s also little doubt that a certain degree of ‘peer pressure’ arises when seasonal purchases become popular.  For example, if your neighbor begins to put up extravagant Christmas displays, you may feel a desire to “keep up” with them. An increasing number of bloggers and social media influencers (who are paid by companies and brands to promote their products) have also contributed to this “peer influence” which contributes to seasonal consumerism.

Ultimately, consumer holiday spending starts from a positive desire to purchase something special for a special person during a special time. The deals of the season allow us to try products that we may not have been able to before. So, enjoy the deals, but most of all, enjoy the company of your family and friends.

Our professors at Whitman provide a resource with a range of experience and knowledge on a plethora of topics. Thank you to Professor Lathrop for taking the time to engage in such an interesting discussion.

Amal Mehic
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