So let me see if I understand this correctly… You cannot buy a bathing suit in August, the stores need to make room for long underwear. You cannot buy long underwear in February, stores need to make room for bathing suits. The back-to-school supplies are out before the kids are out of school. And on the hottest, most humid days of the year, the retail sector seems to think that I am dreaming of a white Christmas and supporting that dream by putting up Christmas trees and ornaments in August. Is that right?
Dear Retail Sector… Stop that right now!
Back in my day (“I’d like ‘things I swore I’d never say because it makes me sound like my dad’ for $1000, Alex), when I worked at your friendly neighbourhood pharmacy, in late October, as the Halloween section’s costumes, decorations and treats started to dwindle, we would gradually move together the remaining items to make the shelves look fuller. Then magically, the Christmas elves took over the store a little bit each night as the Christmas decorations and wrapping paper gradually took over the seasonal section as Halloween came and went. That, my friends, was Christmas magic back in the 1980’s!
In August, our seasonal section was still stocked with sunscreen, insect repellant, pool toys, water guns and Sun-In, all of which gradually sold off, to be replaced by school supplies for the back-to-school promotions. Never did we dream of seeing a Christmas tree in August. How foolish would that have been?
Thirty years later, what changed? Where did we go wrong?
I don’t doubt that there are some fine people out there who believe every day should be like Christmas and are the ones who drive demand. I know some hard-core Christmas decorators who are extremely passionate about shopping for the latest, flashiest, trendiest, blingiest decorations and collectibles available to the public despite the humidex warnings and smog advisories. I acknowledge that they are the inspiration and driving force who spur the rest of us into action a few months later, making us say “Gee, I wish I was as organized as you” and who thankfully get us to the holidays on time. But I would wager a guess that in August, the majority of folks would prefer to bask in summer’s glow and hang on to the threads of what is left of summer.
In all fairness, I believe that there is a need for some Christmas merchandise to be out early. For example, crafting supplies for those home-made gifts that tie into the Christmas theme would totally make sense to me. Clearly those who choose to follow their passion for crafting need a bit of a head start to acquire their supplies and to create their masterpieces in a timely manner. Also, the other frontrunner has to be greeting cards, especially for those folks who thoughtfully send them to friends and family to the four corners of the globe. There as well, in order for the postal service to ensure delivery before the holidays, those cards need to be mailed long before the snow starts to fly.
Aside from crafting supplies and greeting cards, I really don’t get the practicality of rushing everyone to purchase things several months ahead of the seasons. As mentioned above, I truly have gone out looking for long underwear in February only to be told that they have been put away to make room for the bathing suits. I did not make that up! So going forward, I need to think long underwear, long before I need long underwear, to be sure I am not caught short.
In our stressed out, overcaffeinated, overscheduled, overplanned, overcommitted society, we are often told by our spiritual teachers to stop, relax, to take deep breaths and to focus on living in the moment.
Retail Sector, I can hear you gasping now! Of course, I know you cannot do that. Imagine the mayhem if we all took to the shopping malls on December 24th? But on a larger scale, throughout the year, is it not becoming increasingly difficult to find seasonal goods in the season that they are needed. If someone needs road salt or to replace a broken snow shovel in April due to an unexpectedly long winter, is the retail sector ready to accommodate? If not, perhaps that is a missed opportunity, and seasons like that do indeed happen. While it certainly makes sense to offer goods a little ahead of time to get people to start thinking and mentally preparing for the season to come, there must be a point of diminishing returns in terms of how early that can be. Where and when do you draw the line and when is it genuinely lucrative to retail as opposed to being antagonistic to shoppers?
It is true that December is often busy with parties and get together with family, friends and colleagues. That being the case, I genuinely appreciate it when Retail Sector is well stocked in the weeks prior to that, just as the weather cools and outdoor activities start tapering, yielding more time to start getting ready. But until the mercury starts dropping and I am dressing in multiple players, I regret that visions of sugarplums are not dancing in my head, no matter what Retail Sector thinks.
Retail Sector, please… relax and enjoy your summer!
Readers: What do you think?: Should the Holiday merchandise be out in October?… September?… August?… July?… where would you draw the line?
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Have a great day,