Great Debates: Christmas in Stores Before Halloween?

By Jeff Westover

(Author bias: I’ve worked in retailing for 32 years. I also manage 30+ Christmas websites, which likely exposes my full pro-Christmas bias. But on this piece I lay claim to a purely American and capitalistic stance: if I can sell ice to eskimos, I will. I’m in favor of Christmas merchandise in stores year round, the more the merrier).

The Consumerist.com, an online off-shoot of Consumer Reports, launched a campaign in late October 2011 encouraging their readers to “fight back against retailers who put out holiday merchandise too soon”. (They broke this “story” on October 25th, a week before Halloween. Isn’t that a little late to party? I’m just sayin’…)

What they want readers to do is to take a picture of a Christmas ornament with a mean-looking face on it and to physically place it on Christmas product they see displayed in stores “too early”.

Attached to the picture is a little sign that says “Boo on Halloween” or some other anti-Christmas sentiment that sends the message that as a consumer they don’t appreciate seeing Christmas stuff for sale too soon.

What grates me about this type of thing — and the clear media hatred of Christmas every September and October — is that they think consumers really care about it.

Think about it: what is it that a store could display that would prompt you to post nasty faces and snarky messages?

Do you get offended when you see bikini-clad women hawking wares in automotive stores? Will you picket a store for selling swimsuits in January? What about tobacco — does it bother you that a retailer sells an addictive product that has ruined the health of millions over generations? Are these things, as consumers, we should be upset about?

No, they’re not.

And neither is the sale of Christmas products at any time of the year anywhere.

As the media rails on those who sell Christmas early or radio stations who broadcast Christmas music too soon they also praise the likes of retailers like Nordstrom’s, who has made an annual campaign of “Look at us, we don’t put up Christmas decorations until the day after Thanksgiving”.

For years I had an office in a downtown location near a Nordstrom’s that I couldn’t avoid. The number one irritant to me as a citizen was to see their large windows papered over from Halloween to Thanksgiving with a sign that said “We celebrate our holidays the old fashioned way — one at a time.”

Their window was an eyesore but their attitude was an irritant. It pushed me out of Nordstroms not only from Halloween forward but year round as well.

Christmas is not a crime. Enjoying Christmas is not a crime. Wanting to buy or see Christmas when it isn’t December isn’t a crime either. I shouldn’t be made to feel like it is. In fact, I refuse to feel that way.

The simple fact of the matter is that someone has to sell Christmas in Setpember, October and November. As a businessman, I have to purchase that stuff in advance of the season as I plan, like any other purchase I make.

I buy my tax software in January — I don’t wait until April. That’s just how it works. Take Christmas out of the stores in fall and I won’t be ready for Christmas when it arrives. It is just that simple.

The campaign against Christmas in stores in the months of fall is as much a tradition as hanging lights. This year, the media campaign against Christmas has been worse than usual. They all cry it is coming earlier and earlier. But that’s not true. I’ve followed Christmas trends for nearly 20 years now, that’s what I do. And Christmas is always on display right after Labor Day in places like WalMart, Costco, Target, Kmart and others. There is nothing new about it.

These media outlets who complain so loudly now about it give credence to those who say there is a war on Christmas. I can understand at times the hesitancy to put Christmas on a court house lawn or mention it in a school — but in a store? C’mon — how stupid is that?

As a retailer they will listen to the customer over the media any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Money talks and to them selling Christmas in September speaks more loudly than all the media moaning about it.

As we continue to endure the Great Recession the media would be advised to stop trying to manufacture the news and just report on it. Maybe if they did that we could see our way out of some of the economic dark clouds we face. After all, retailers who market stuff provide jobs. And jobs are what allow us to buy newspapers, watch television shows, and surf the Internet.

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