Once again we have finished that annual Canadian tradition, where the first 11 days of November are filled with complaints, protests and moral outrage about Christmas decorations making an appearance before Remembrance Day. The Internet buckles beneath the sheer number of online moralists calling out businesses for putting up Christmas trees and playing Christmas carols before November 11th and threatening to boycott the ones who don’t listen. It’s a healthy dose of passionate fury that completely misses the point. Contrary to the opinion of the outraged, businesses do not decorate their stores to offend anyone or insult our veterans; they do it because customers, the outraged among them, want it.
You need to approach this argument with one simple fact front and center in mind: businesses of any size, from mom and pop stores to big box retail giants, don’t do anything without the bottom line in mind. Nothing happens without a full and comprehensive analysis of how it affects the almighty profit margin and everything a business does is motivated to increase revenues. Businesses exist to make money.
Toronto based musicologist Alan Cross stated in a recent column that the average North American adult contemporary radio station sees an 81% increase in ratings when they begin playing Christmas music. Yes, you read that right-81%. The increase is so dramatic that a number of popular stations in moderate sized American markets converted their playlists to Christmas exclusive music as early as October. And just to throw an extra log on that fire, the most popular Christmas carols on YouTube are expected to be streamed over a million times (each) during the last two months of the year.
Christmas isn’t just big business, it’s the business. No other holiday or time of year comes close to generating that kind of cash flow and retail outlets generally collect half of their annual revenue in the last third of the year. Some do a quarter or more of their annual business during November and December alone and Christmas revenue keeps many businesses afloat during the lean times the rest of the year. A public transit strike in Ottawa that lasted from December 10th 2008 to the following January was estimated to cost the National Capital region nearly 300 million dollars during the Yuletide season. The damage was bad enough that it forced some big box retailers to curb their seasonal hiring and a number of businesses blamed the lost Christmas revenue when they were forced to shutter their doors later that year.
Christmas is essentially a retailer’s make or break season. When Target Canada was considering their options last year, they made the decision to see how their Christmas fortunes panned out before deciding on their future. When all the numbers were crunched and they realized how poorly they had performed last holiday season, they decided to throw in the towel and waved the white flag. Nearly 18,000 jobs hinged on the Christmas season.
That’s the power of Christmas dollars.
So it would stand to reason that businesses of all sizes would want to capitalize on that spending orgy as early as possible, if not for their own survival. And if putting up Christmas decorations as soon as the Halloween ones came down didn’t result in an immediate and positive response they wouldn’t do it. Dusting those decorations off and getting them up is the best (and cheapest) form of advertising a business has at their disposal this time of year. And it works.
Costco wouldn’t put Christmas cards on sale in August if there weren’t people who bought them in August. A lot of people. It’s simple supply and demand.
It’s excellent that so many people feel passionate about respecting such an important day as November 11th (as long as complaining isn’t the only thing you’re doing). But you need to stop throwing your anger shade at retailers and businesses who rush to exploit the almighty Christmas dollar (to keep people employed) and maybe take a look at the consumers who are convinced to spend those important dollars by the appearance of candy canes and mistletoe.
Its time to accept that consumers are more responsible for the behaviour you hate then the businesses you’re yelling at.