It’s Too Early for Christmas and Chanukah (Isn’t It?)

Elizabeth Bluemle - September 14, 2011

For the fifteen years we’ve been in business, the Flying Pig has always erred on the side of being late to decorate for the holidays. I confess to an intense personal dislike of the commercialization of absolutely everything, which is admittedly a challenging attitude to have as a retailer. I’m also old enough that the day after Thanksgiving used to mark the earliest acceptable date to start putting out Christmas and Chanukah decorations, and that still seems plenty early to me. I know that many of my customers appreciate the fact that we aren’t flogging the holidays, but there are just as many (in increasing numbers as time goes by) who start looking for our holiday books in July and August, and get serious about it by September.
With the economy in its current state, we’ve discovered that many of our customers are now spacing out their holiday shopping, doing a little at a time. In other words, they’re starting earlier, and for good reasons. In the past week, we’ve had four requests for Christmas books, and Josie and I can’t decide what to do about this. Sure, we could take an endcap that we’re currently using for something else, and devote it to holiday books. But in a small store (about 1500 sq. ft.), making that choice means losing something else worthy — for four months! We could set up a rolling book cart—we have one with sale books currently living in the front of the store, the only place it really fits easily—but then those books become the first thing customers see when they walk in the door, which we just can’t stomach this early. We could set up two or three little book bins on the floor in the picture book section, but that would instantly cheapen the books in them. Bin-ification just has that effect.
So it’s a conundrum for us here at the Flying Pig. Heck, I feel guilty having Halloween books on display already. (I only put them out because they were taking up too much space in the back room, and people had started asking for them.) How do we bow to the seasonal pressures to accommodate early shoppers and make sales without alienating people who, like us, prefer to defer thinking about Christmas and Chanukah until—at the most—a month out?

6 thoughts on “It’s Too Early for Christmas and Chanukah (Isn’t It?)

  1. Trish Brown

    We have a bookcase of holiday books year-round, mostly because we don’t have room to store them anywhere else, and there are always books that we can’t return for one reason or another. Publishers send the new holiday books so early these days that our bookcase is bulging at the seams! We don’t do displays of holiday books until a month before the holiday.

  2. Carol B. Chittenden

    We have this same discussion several times a year, with half the staff saying, “Put the hay down where the goats can get it,” and the other (my) half saying “Let’s not insult the customers with exploitative marketing.” Plus, for certain holidays, there are just too many titles to do anything short of a full-on blanket approach. We’re presently experimenting with small tables, and though we’ve not yet reached firm conclusions, the tables do allow a sort of prelude to the full orchestration. We bought small round tables that are stable, inexpensive, very easy to set up, and easy to take apart and store in very little space. I’m thinking of ordering 3 more of the same.

  3. Kitti

    I have no solution for you, but I agree with you wholeheartedly! I love the holidays – in order, and in due time.
    Hallowe’en decor arrived last month in stores around here. It was 101 degrees and I had on flip-flops. It’s just wrong!
    I like to shop early and space my gift-buying out as well, but I don’t need decorations to match my purpose for shopping. I can buy a book or candle or what-have-you just as easily under a smiling sun face as under a silver garland.

  4. Valerie

    It’s very refreshing to hear a retailer understanding how discouraging it is to see the Halloween and Christmas coming out in July and how that can seem like rank commercialism! But I do see your dilemma, too, as I also spread my holiday shopping over the entire year (at least for smaller items).
    I’m not familiar with your store’s physical layout (although I’ve had you bookmarked for years) but would it be an option to have a dedicated “holiday” shelf somewhere? Perhaps not in plain sight but somewhere that those that ask early can be directed? Not sure the St. Patrick’s Day rush would be adequate to dedicate shelf space to for a year but …
    Appreciated your post immensely. And hope to visit in person some day to see what your solution is 🙂

  5. Heather Lyon

    We’ve had good results with a single “preview the holidays” display (ours is a wall display because we have this odd space for it). We just throw them out there as they come in, a jumble of Christmas, Halloween Thanksgiving, Chanukah books together, with an assortment of decor fluff around the edges. It sounds tacky, and maybe it is, but we sell lots of things from it. No one seems insulted. I think combining the holidays softens the blow in a way.

  6. Denise

    As a customer, it’s depressing to see Christmas before Halloween. But that doesn’t mean I don’t start making lists before Halloween and if I see something on my list I buy it when I see it. Retailers and Christmas overkill have about killed the holiday for me. But waiting till a month before to put holiday books out loses me completely. I won’t buy decorations but I WILL buy books and I want to see what’s new early. My suggestion as a customer is to have a dedicated holiday shelf with ESPECIALLY the new books until the middle of November when it all goes on a shelf. Whether you like it or not, by then you just can’t hide from it any longer and you need the sale. If they can’t get it from you they’ll go online for it.


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