Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | October 2, 2002

It’s not even Halloween yet

When I think of fall, I think of big, comfy sweatshirts, baking bread and cookies, school projects and Halloween. Apparently, I am not a retailer’s ideal customer. They all seem to be thinking of Christmas.

While driving in downtown Palo Alto a few weeks ago, I passed Restoration Hardware and was dismayed to see holiday decorations – wreaths, Christmas trees, swags of garland and twinkling lights – festooning the store. When I walked by the store later that evening, I was relieved to see a sign informing passersby that the store was part of a photo shoot and the decorations were not an attempt to jump-start the holiday shopping season.

But Restoration Hardware must be behind schedule. My mailbox has been swollen for weeks with holiday catalogs, urging me to spend my sparse economic-doldrum dollars on their products. If Restoration Hardware is just now doing its holiday photo shoots, their Christmas catalog might not reach me until, say, early November.

But the local Target store already has an aisle devoted to holiday decorations, and I noticed JoAnn Fabric employees unloading boxes of Christmas supplies this week.

Gee, it’s not even Halloween yet.

I must be behind the times, since I haven’t yet bought candy for the ghosts and goblins who’ll be trick-or-treating at my door in four weeks. Gee whiz, the event is nearly a month a way and I’m feeling behind schedule already.

When I was in high school and college, I worked at Lazarus, a department store in Columbus, Ohio. Every Lazarus employee was told the tale of store owner Fred Lazarus Jr., who, as the story goes, persuaded President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 to move Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November – the day it had been observed since President Lincoln’s decree in 1863 – to the fourth Thursday in November. Lazarus’ reason? To boost the economy – and his own pocketbook, no doubt – with a longer Christmas shopping season.

Lazarus obviously had woefully inadequate goals by today’s retailing standards. What was the man thinking? He should have had FDR move Thanksgiving to mid-October. Columbus Day hits mid-month, but with a little foresight, Lazarus could have predicted how politically incorrect the holiday would become and Thanksgiving could have replaced it. Think of it, a two-and-a-half month Christmas shopping season.

The sad thing is, it would still be a shorter time frame than retailers are currently using for holiday sales.

I say enough’s enough. I don’t need to be inundated with reminders to spend, spend, spend before the temperatures even think about hovering near freezing.

I don’t need to think about holiday decorations before I’ve even figured out what my kids will wear for Halloween.

I don’t need to worry about my Christmas dinner menu before I’ve even contemplated the Thanksgiving turkey’s stuffing.

I don’t know why I’m surprised. Bathing suits will start showing up in department stores in March, and be gone by June, when I might actually be in need of one and have mustered up enough courage to shop for them.

Back-to-school items were on store shelves in July. When I finally had my kids’ supply lists from their teachers in September, the back-to-school notebooks, binders, pens, folders, etc. were gone, replaced by Halloween costumes and Christmas supplies.

Call me crazy, but I try not to buy my kids’ clothes until they need them. It’s anyone’s guess what size they’ll be wearing in next season; I’m certainly not going to tempt the growth-spurt fates by purchasing an expensive coat or dress 10 or 12 weeks before it’s needed.

I’m not sure why retailers feel the need to push us out of current seasons. The only thing I know to do is to try to make it work to my advantage. When I’m ready for that bathing suit, I’ll probably find it on the clearance rack. I may have a smaller selection, but I’ll take comfort in that 60 percent savings. When I need a new sweater in March, I’ll walk past the racks of bikinis to the clearance shelf at the back of the store.

So this fall, while I’m enjoying s’mores and hot chocolate, crunching in leaves and carving pumpkins, I’ll studiously ignore the holiday catalogs, trees and twinkling lights until after the fall mileposts – Halloween, elections, Thanksgiving – are safely in the past. Then, and only then, will I be ready to spend time, attention or money on the winter holidays.



  1. […] railed against the ever-earlier start to the Christmas season. But, I know that I can choose to purchase holiday […]

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