‘Twas the night before Christmas… and all the stores were closed.
Why? They needed a few hours to get ready for the AFTER Christmas sale.
All of the retail elves were home with the rest of us, anticipating the festival of unwrapping and judging the value and likeability (return-ability) of presents received.
The holiday season is a make-it-or-break-it time for most retailers and many businesses.
Is it my imagination, or is the Christmas “season” expanding? Remember when there was the excitement that the shopping season officially began “the day after Thanksgiving” – unofficially known as “Black Friday.”
The day AFTER Thanksgiving, stores opening at 8am – then 7am – then 6am – then 5am – then midnight. Trying to lure customers with the size, discount, and sale of their “pre-Christmas” then, based on social pressures, changed it to a “pre-holiday” extravaganza.
EARLY WARNING SIGNAL: I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I have, that there are now Christmas items among the Halloween candies. In the drug stores, the card shops, the grocery stores, even the department stores, merchants are trying to remind you, and to sell you, whatever they can before the competition does.
Even online, companies like amazon.com had their seasonal art on landing pages by Halloween. Boo. (That wasn’t to scare you! That was the Philadelphia boo: the voice of disapproval. The “What were you thinking?” boo. The angry boo. The greedy boo. The boo-hiss.)
I don’t know about you, but I believe business greed is stepping over the line introducing the spirit of the holiday season before candy is handed to little ghosts and goblins, or before families gather to give thanks for our freedom, and for each other.
Seems as though businesses are willing to risk ridicule and reputation for a chance to ring their cash register.
Now while none of this is really a big deal, be aware that when some retailer, wanting to jump the gun, tries to pull off Christmas in October – or earlier – it generates thoughts in the mind of the consumer – none of them positive.
And those thoughts lead to perceptions and buying decisions.
If I’m put off or angry at your early entry into the Christmas season, I may not return to buy when the actual season starts.
And then there are those who try to down the competition in a subtle way. I saw a sign in the window of a major department store that startled me. It said that they like to celebrate one holiday at a time, and that they would not be putting up any Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving.
GREAT! But, eh, why are they telling me that? Why don’t they just DO IT?
My concept of what will win is go back a decade, look at what won then, add the internet and email messaging, create a stock of inventory of WHAT PEOPLE WANT – not just what you buy cheap, and are looking to sell at a great margin – and let one customer tell another customer how great your merchandise is.
One more thing – HIRE GREAT PEOPLE – people who:
- love to serve
- can multitask
- can go the extra mile
- and who have a base intelligence that is smarter than the merchandise.
This will require that you pay them more – train them more – and provide a work atmosphere that both employees AND customers love. This also means managers must be happy, not condescending.
The sign in the department store window was right: ONE HOLIDAY AT A TIME. Hey, Mr. Retailer – you’re the one who created the purchasing part of these holidays in the first place.
My vote is give thanks for what you have at Thanksgiving, celebrate your blessings with your family, and THEN sell like hell the day after – until 5pm on Christmas Eve.
That strategy would please your customers, create word-of-mouth advertising to complement your traditional marketing outreach, and even please the panicked shareholders once the numbers begin to emerge.
I saw a t-shirt the other day that said: Let’s keep the X in X-MAS. It’s a sign of the times, and a resign of the consumer at the same time. If you want the holiday recipe for success, take the formula above and add spirit.