Study details what people really think about Christmas music in shops


Mere minutes after Thanksgiving, stores across the western world will begin to pipe in Christmas music and won’t let up for six long weeks. But what do staff and customers really think about the Christmassy carols emanating from the tinny speakers of winter-themed display windows?

Does hearing Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ have a calming effect on wild-eyed, tantrum-throwing customers jostling for last-minute Christmas gifts? Or does it send them running for the doors?

As a follow-up to the most prominent academic study ever on restaurant music, Soundtrack Your Brand presents the ultimate research guide to Christmas music and insight into what both customers and staff really think about festive tunes.

In collaboration with the Retail Action Project, over 2,000 customers and shop staff in the US and UK were surveyed about their feelings towards Christmas music’s in the retail experience.

Alongside this, the study also contains findings from Soundtrack Your Brand’s own data; showing which songs and artists are truly ruling the Holiday season.

Ola Sars, CEO and founder of Soundtrack Your Brand, comments: “As a company on a mission to kill bad background music, we are fascinated by the effect holiday classics are having on the Christmas shopping experience.”

“It’s also crucial that not only shoppers are taken into account when putting together the right holiday soundtrack – the wellbeing of those behind the cash registers and on the shop floor should be a huge priority for businesses during the busy festive season.

“We hope that this study will make retailers think carefully about playing ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Fairytale of New York’ on loop over the next eight weeks. All we want for Christmas is for people to understand the power background music can have on both sides of the retail experience.”

Results highlights:

Americans tend to like in-store Christmas music more than Brits: shoppers are generally in favour of in-store Christmas music. However, American shoppers (56%) are significantly fonder of Christmas music than Brits (43%). Additionally, more Brits (25%) actively dislike Christmas music than Americans (17%)

People don’t want to hear Christmas music before the beginning of December: as far as customers are concerned, shops shouldn’t start to play Christmas music until the start of December. Over a fifth of Americans (23%) and a third of Brits believe Christmas music should start on 1 December and not before

It’s not that people dislike all Christmas music. It’s just too repetitive: the repetition of Christmas songs is the main cause of irritation for 43% of customers. While being equally frustrated by repetition, 40% of the British Baby Boomers (over 55s) are annoyed by Christmas songs becoming a commercial ploy – significantly higher than the national average (23%)

Millennials are more brand-sensitive when it comes to Christmas music: across the UK and US, 15% of customers have found Christmas music clashes with a store’s brand. Millennials however seem more attuned to this, with 19% having noticed a clash in-store

Christmas music & workers: although just under half of shop staff (47%) said they enjoy when the likes of ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ hits the speaker system, 21% of retail workers said they actively dislike holiday music

Nearly two thirds of retail staff feel Christmas music can affect their wellbeing: while not influencing productivity, a considerable majority of workers (64%) feel that Christmas music did affect their mental wellbeing at work. While for most (47%) this was positive, a small number (16%) feel it negatively affects them

A quarter of workers feel less festive following their shift: it isn’t jingles all the way for a quarter of retail staff, with 25% of workers agreeing that the Christmas music playlist makes them feel less ‘festive’ overall.