Happy SMART Day Everyone!
How many of you have noticed that Costco and a couple of other big-box retailers have already set up their Christmas decorations—and September isn’t even over? That’s right, sometime during the month of September Costco began moving out the summer displays and setting up Christmas trees, neon-flashing Santa’s and boxes of wrapping paper, all designed to get you in the buying mood early this year. And while I’m normally a fan of Costco, I consider their Christmas push to be obscene. As a member of the “club,” this push is a great reminder that Costco’s, (and similar other retail store’s) primary agenda is not to serve customers—but instead to generate income. And that is something very SMART for each of us to remember.
Why? Why are holiday displays popping up so early? Retailers say they are doing it for us, the consumer, because people start asking for them. The practice itself is called “Christmas creep”—and the creep is happening earlier and earlier each year. For retail stores the creep is all about grabbing the sale and market share before any other business can. Forget the holiday spirit—there is nothing altruistic about it. According to a quote from a Home Depot manager, it isn’t even a phase-in situation where things are gradually introduced. Instead, it’s one big “whoosh.” The only items to be added nearing the holiday will be fresh cut trees.
Why are retailers so big on it? Traditionally the Christmas “buying” season can account for 20-50% of a retail store’s annual income. According to retail marketing theory, the longer holiday items are on display, the longer the stores can keep them at full price instead of clearance discounts. So technically, the sooner they put stuff out, the sooner their income will start rolling in—and, the less they will have to discount once December comes. According to some news sources, just about all items will be on the clearance racks by December.
In case you’re wondering, I love Christmas. Of course, I enjoy Halloween and Thanksgiving too. By allowing retailers to decide what to start focusing our attention and our spending money on, we are both allowing ourselves to be manipulated and denouncing other important holidays at the same time. While some segments of the population might not care about losing Halloween—what about Thanksgiving? Oh, sorry—there’s little money to be made there so retailers would be just as happy losing that one too.
I also support setting intentions for the future, so I don’t even mind if people begin strategizing the holidays well in advance. If it makes you happy to start thinking about who you want to include for the celebration that great. If you enjoy planning for what you want to give the people in your life for the big day—that’s wonderful. If contemplating the spiritual aspects of the holiday far in advance increase the quality of your life—that’s awesome. Unfortunately if we succumb to making the holiday all about what we buy, what we pay, and how much profit is made, then we become not spiritual beings, not even human beings—we become mere brainwashed consumers. And let’s face it, brainwashed consumers are not SMART!
As with most things SMART, each of us is individually responsible for the change we want to experience in the world. In other words, if we do not believe that allowing retailers to manipulate us is a good practice, then we cannot fall asleep and start buying things just because the stores make them look so festive and attractive. If we want something, anything, to stop—we have to stop participating.
When should stores start selling Christmas trinkets? I personally would like to see Christmas items sold after Thanksgiving. If I want to live SMART, that means it’s best for me to resist the urge to buy things myself until then. And guess what, according to retailers, that is actually when the lowest prices will be available. Meanwhile, fully celebrating the changing seasons, enjoying Halloween and especially Thanksgiving for the weeks preceding and during, I am certain to be maximizing those days, months and holidays, as well as living in the “now.”
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~Mohandas Gandhi
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” ~Babatunde Olatunji