Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | August 1, 2006

Can’t retailers market to the current season?

We hadn’t even hit the Ides of July and suddenly they were everywhere – back-to-school supplies and advertisements.

We hadn’t even started the epic summer of 2006 heat wave and retailers were moving swimsuits, beach towels, grills and patio furniture to clearance racks.

We hadn’t even reached the halfway point of the summer break and I was forced to wonder what school supplies my kids will need this fall.

Of course, I won’t know until late afternoon on Aug. 22 – the first day of school for the Morgan Hill Unified School District – when my kids come home with notes and syllabi detailing the various requirements.

If I buy notebook paper before then, I’ll pick wide rule only to learn that college rule is a must. If I purchase binders early, when they’re on sale and in good supply, I’ll discover that I’ve purchased the wrong spine size. If I opt for single-subject spiral-bound notebooks, I’ll find out that the teacher wants multiple subject divisions.

I worked in retail during high school and college, and I frequently heard customers complain that stores were too far ahead of the seasons. I share their frustration.

God forbid your child should have a growth spurt after mid-July and need a new swimsuit. You’ll find a limited selection of styles and count yourself lucky to find one in the right size. If you can find one, at least the price will be slashed.

For some reason, we’re all too accepting of retailers’ drill: Christmas decorations appear right after Halloween, Valentine’s Day hearts and candy populate store shelves right after New Year’s, and Mother’s Day marketing begins shortly after we get our mid-February chocolate and flowers fix. Merchants wouldn’t push the seasons if the strategy didn’t work.

I tend to be a deadline-driven, get-it-done now, check-it-off-the-list, Type A personality, but even I’m feeling rushed by retailers.

Please, can’t we enjoy summer break – those 10 wonderful weeks of no homework, relaxed schedules, hot days and warm evenings – without constant reminders of the impending return to the classroom?

Even if it’s irritating, retailers’ calendar pushing is at least comforting in its predictability. There’s nothing comforting, however, in the predictability of events like the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, Arab-Israeli tensions, sectarian violence in Iraq, and the ongoing genocide in Darfur.

With it too hot to even contemplate heading outdoors for much of the last few weeks, with frustration over several national current events, and with international news detailing increasingly out-of-control events, I’ve found myself with an urge to organize my home.

I spent my spare time shredding old bank statements, duplicate checks, insurance EOBs and more. At least a dozen paper grocery bags filled with confetti-like shredding lined my foyer awaiting their trip to the recycling truck.

I purged possessions as well as papers, making several trips to a nearby Goodwill donation station and freeing valuable storage square footage.

I reorganized files, closets, cabinets and my desk. I bought and assembled bookshelves to facilitate my newly organized self.

Now we’ll see how long it lasts.

I’m hoping that my organizational efforts outlast back-to-school sales, the hot weather, the killer bees in San Benito County, Olin’s resumed bottled water deliveries, Pamela Anderson’s latest marriage, Mel Gibson’s DUI arrest woes, and the current flare-up in the Middle East.

But it’s anyone’s guess if this is a passing phase or a newly ingrained set of habits. If my armchair self-analysis is correct, I’m experiencing this intense purge-and-organize urge because so much of the world seems to be out of control. I’m exerting control over that little corner of the world that I can – the stuff in my home.

It’s not too likely that President Bush will start seeing things my way, that Israel and its neighbors will find a lasting peace, that Kim Jong-Il will experience a long-term burst of reasonableness, or that same-sex marriage or federal funding of embryonic stem cell research will be legalized anytime soon.

Maybe my new organized self is here to stay for quite a while after all. But I’d be happy to trade my organized home for a cluttered one if it would make any one of those events happen. The midsummer back-to-school sales, those I can tolerate.



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

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