Saturday, September 24, 2011

Christmas and Chanukah Before Halloween? Greed or Efficiency?

A local newscaster mentioned earlier this week that there were only 95 days left before Christmas. That made me snap to attention. When my mother was alive she would start reminding me at the end of May of the number of days left until the December holidays. Since I spent 20 years in retailing there were many times I was not happy to hear her do her annual count down. I much preferred when I was growing up and September meant Labor Day signaling the end of summer and our return to school (in that order). Halloween was not given a thought until October when creative ideas for costumes started becoming paramount in our minds (of course, then costumes were not big business as they are today). In November we all started looking forward to Thanksgiving which was absolutely a marvelous holiday in so many ways. Growing up in the Midwest we always wished and hoped for the first snowfall to coincide with Thanksgiving (we had a long weekend off from school when sledding, making snowmen, and even ice skating could be enjoyed). Sometimes our wishes came true but usually not so then we began wishing for a White Christmas. We never saw a Christmas ad, a Christmas tree, decoration or Chanukah ad until after Thanksgiving. We always had time to shop and to savor the holidays, the music, the traditions, the food, and the excitement. I have always been annoyed by the huge newspaper ads placed by a major upscale retailer saying that they would not have Christmas decorations in their stores until after Thanksgiving (they neglected to mention that they required employees to work over the Thanksgiving holiday to install the Christmas decorations). With every passing year it seems that retailers in brick and mortar stores and/or on line are desperate to capture holiday sales earlier and earlier. This year I have actually seen Christmas merchandise sharing space with Halloween goods, and it was only the end of August. What do you think? Is it pure and simple greed that makes it necessary to compress all the holidays into one mass sales effort? Is it efficiency that makes it a good idea to capitalize on possible economies of scale by getting all holiday goods out in one fell swoop? Our children are little for such a short time, and it seems to me that to allow each holiday its own special time period might motivate families to shop for each special occasion and to appreciate their local retailers more and more. In the present economy retailers could spread a lot of enjoyment and hope by making each occasion a special one. They might even increase their sales by reminding customers that our country and our world have experienced tough economic times before and came out on the other side to prosper once more. What better public relations tools could there be than enjoyment and hope for the future? With the unemployment rate being so high it may very well be a lean year for retailers, but the good will they can provide in their communities can be an investment in future business when once again we recover and prosper.

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