Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Holiday Desperation

The number-one movie at the box office this past weekend was Disney’s latest re-make of “A Christmas Carol”, which did 31 million dollars in ticket sales. People took their kids to see Jim Carrey play multiple roles in the holiday classic, while it was a gorgeous 70 degrees in Madison.

Often when drivers who own convertibles put the top down in weather like we had this weekend, they’ll have the oldies station playing on the radio. Except this weekend, the local oldies station was playing Christmas music. WOLX-FM went “all Christmas music, all the time” last week.

The social media -Facebook and Twitter - were alive this past weekend with posts from Madisonians who were taking advantage of the beautiful weather to put their Christmas decorations up early. One of my friends posted “Is it wrong to put up Christmas decorations because it’s so nice this weekend?”. Another friend replied “Not if you don’t turn them on”.

Even though Veterans Day is tomorrow, the ads on TV this weekend were dominated not by Veterans Day sales, but by Christmas sales. One company pushed its “Black Friday Sale” ads seemingly every hour or so.

Retailers call the Friday after Thanksgiving “Black Friday”, a reference to the ink on the financial books turning from red to black that day. It’s widely (and erroneously) believed that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the “biggest shopping day of the year”, but it isn‘t. Don’t believe what the TV news folks tell you. The biggest shopping day of the year is the Saturday before Christmas.

Procrastinators rule the Christmas market, apparently.

My calendar says Black Friday is still two and a half weeks away, but a number of national retailers have been in Christmas mode since the week before Halloween. One of the big national drugstore chains that has a dozen or more locations in the Madison area had Christmas stuff on display the last week of October.

Then there’s “Cyber Monday”, a relatively new phenomenon that supposedly happens the Monday after Thanksgiving, when everybody returns to work and uses the company’s broadband connection to surf the big sales on the internet.
This year, it all seems so desperate.

So many merchants, large and small, seem to be trying to cash in on the Christmas bonanza before everybody else. The biggest one of them all, WalMart, had huge Christmas decorations up in their SuperStore in Monona this past weekend.

Part of the problem merchants face, it would seem, is that we’re leery of spending money these days. Many people have just hunkered down to ride out the recession. Another problem merchants face is that some reality has finally been injected into the credit card business. Those come-on’s to sign up for a credit card that we used to get in the mail five or six times a week - not so much any more.

Perhaps the congress needs to enact “No Merchant Left Behind” legislation.
CNN says the average bonus for the big Wall Street money firms this year is just over a quarter-million dollars. Maybe they’ll spend some of it on Christmas presents, so the merchants don’t have to be so desperate.

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