According to a new survey by the data firm, Rich Relevance, WJLA reports, 71 percent of U.S. adults claim to be “annoyed or very annoyed” at the presence of Christmas items in stores before Halloween. The WJLA feature didn’t indicate whether the study found people ticked off to see Halloween candy displays in August, but that’s another story.
Though the candy-in-August is easy to explain. I’ve often heard people gripe, “That’s stupid, the candy won’t be any good by Halloween.” And, of course, they are correct. The candy suppliers are counting on that. They want to put out their product early so people will buy them…EAT them…and then need to go out and buy MORE once Halloween actually rolls around. A bit of marketing genius, actually.
As for Christmas, I’m guessing it’s the same approach…Put the Christmas stuff out early so you can encourage people to BUY early…and then realize that what they’ve bought, they like for themselves and then have go out AGAIN to get gifts they actually plan to give to other people.
Given the fact that stores are literally open 24-7-365 thanks to the internet, timing really doesn’t matter that much anymore, which helps explain why those annoyed were mostly oldsters like myself (ages 45-60) while those in the 18-29 age range weren’t that annoyed at all. Besides, the younger crowd is used to seeing Halloween costume-and-candy displays while it’s 100 degrees outside or spying racks of ornaments and assorted Christmas trappings before either The Great Pumpkin has appeared or The Simpson’s “Treehouse of Horror” special has aired.
Eventually, as the oldsters age and slip into the annals of history, it won’t seem odd at all to see stores stocking products three or four or six months in advance of whatever holidays is on the horizon…Start buying those fireworks the day after New Year’s, you’ll find the sparklers right next to the Easter Egg Candy display.
Some major chains (Kohl’s is one that comes to mind) have decided to take a stand and announce that their employees will not be induced to work on Thanksgiving, playing up on people’s sympathies that each holiday’s boundaries need to be respected. Of course, this is yet another marketing ploy. Many companies got hit with severe public-and-media backlash in recent years when stories his the news wires of chain stores making their employees work on the holidays. How very Scroogey of them! Bad, bad, capitalists! I’ll never buy at (insert stingy, heartless company name here) again!
This is where the PR comes in. Part of being an effective PR counselor is being observant of trends, both current and “in the making.” Businesses that saw the potential negative outcry took proactive steps to come forward and announce, “Halloween is Halloween, Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving, Christmas is Christmas, and never the thrain shall meet.” Those companies that seem to be puffing their chests with moral indignation at the prospect of making THEIR employees actually WORK on a holiday seem to doth protest too much, to borrow from the Bard. It comes across as reactive; happening only to make the company “look good,” versus actually having a sincere wish to safeguard the well-being of their employees.
Bottomline? Don’t wait for the bad thing to happen before deciding to take action, lest it appear that you are merely caving in to pressure. People don’t like that. People DO like courage. They DO like sincerity (if you can fake that, you’ve got it made as George Allen used to say). They DO appreciate an organization that is true to its mission statement, which usually says something about “caring for our customers and our employees.” PR practitioners should encourage their clients to embrace the late Kurt Vonnegut’s definition of a saint: someone who acts decently despite living in an indecent society. Be decent. It’s good business.