By Scott Robertson
In 1974, when I was six years old, I watched the CBS television special, “It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown.” I still remember one scene in which Charlie Brown, Sally, Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty and Marcie walk into a department store to buy shoes, Easter baskets, eggs – as Lucy says, “you know, the works.” They enter the store to find Christmas trees, Santa and his reindeer, and signs that say things like, “Buy Early!” “Big Pre-Christmas Sale” and “Only 246 days until XMAS!”
I’ve watched the stores in real life bring this bit of satire closer and closer to reality, (if you’re really interested in “Christmas Creep” as a phenomenon, you can easily research which retailers started the trend) until this year, I finally saw what I never thought I’d see. There, on Labor Day, were Christmas decorations in a store.
Christmas decorations. On Labor Day. LABOR DAY!
Not only were the employees decorating a section of the store itself with such decorations, they were moving out inventory items like beach chairs and coolers and putting in artificial trees, light strands and reindeer-themed yard art. Out with the artificially-coconut-scented tanning oil and in with the artificially-cinnamon-scented fake trees.
It made me wonder how long the Halloween displays a few aisles over had been up.
I won’t say which retailer had jumped the gun so early. I don’t want to make trouble for those nice employees. They’re probably as appalled as me. At least I hope so. I hope even the manager rolled his eyes when he got the memo from corporate that Christmas shopping season would start on Labor Day.
And frankly, from a business perspective, I understand. I really do. Amazon and its web-based business model have crippled traditional retailers. Even Walmart has girded its loins for a year of battle unlike any heretofore seen. Not so long ago we worried about how local retailers could survive against the Sears, KMarts and Walmarts of the world. Now all physical site-based retail stores face an uncertain future.
According to a Wall Street Journal piece I read a few weeks ago, Sears/Kmart’s revenues a decade ago were over $40 billion while Amazon’s were under $20 billion. Today Sears/Kmart revenues are at $22 billion and falling while Amazon is at $136 billion and climbing. The Kmart in Johnson City is closing. The Bristol Mall is shuttered entirely.
Physical store locations must do everything they can to get shoppers off the web and into the building. I get that.
And yet still…How do we who call ourselves Christians expect to be able to tell the world, or even our own children, that Christmas is a holy observation of God’s greatest gift, when what they see is a six-foot inflatable snowman singing “Jingle Bell Rock” in early September?
I’m a strong proponent of observing the true spirit of Christmas all year ‘round. But I can’t bring myself to agreeing with bringing the Christmas retail season into the actual summer season.
If retailers feel they have to resort to “Get your Christmas decorations now – Only 14 shopping days left till autumn!” then I just don’t believe they’re taking the right approach to their business battles.
It hurts to think we have become what we considered worthy of satirical scorn not so long ago. What was the stuff of ridicule is now reality.
I’m glad my parents didn’t have to explain why stores hawk Christmas kitsch on Labor Day back when I was a little boy watching Charlie Brown cartoons. How do you tell a child Christmas is holy when it is so crassly made into something else right before his or her eyes for months beforehand?
Charlie Brown had it right.