It’s a hot day. I’m sweating like Putin at a Pride parade, so I duck into a shop for something cold to drink.
There, in the middle, is a Christmas display.
“Gosh,” I think, “I better get the snow tires on.”
Some might think Christmas displays in September are jumping the gun. These people obviously haven’t been to Costco, where the tinsel and trees went up when it was still the height of summer
Nor have they read the news out of the U.S., where Walmart began letting customers put Christmas presents on layaway on Friday. (Don’t rush to the local Wally World for this, though; it’s not offered in Canada.)
Nor have these people seen the stories saying that retailers who wait until Black Friday, the traditional launch of the U.S. Christmas shopping season, will have missed the bus, or at least the sleigh. With an estimated 40 per cent of consumers beginning their gift-buying before Halloween, Nov. 29 is too late.
Christmas creep is nothing new. The Retail Council of Canada’s Mark Startup has been hearing people grumble about it for 30 years — but each year the grumbling starts earlier. Now it seems the reindeer are wrestling for shelf space not just with Halloween costumes, but school supplies.
The thing is, the stores are just going where the business is. “Merchants are responding to the needs and wants of their customers,” Startup says.
And right now, bricks-and-mortar stores are trying to keep pace with the habits of consumers who shop online or across the border. An estimated one in five Canadians shops in the U.S. before Christmas, according to one BMO survey.
Spending abroad might save you money, but there’s still a cost. Shop locally and your money stays in the local economy. Your taxes stay here, too, allowing the government to build schools, run hospitals, pay Pamela Wallin’s travel expenses and keep the legislature in session for 36 whole days a year.
If you want to shop the outlet stores in the U.S., then you shouldn’t mind your 911 call
getting transferred to the Washington State Patrol when you hear a burglar stealing the 50-inch television you bought in Bellingham.
Likewise, anyone crowing about the great deal they got ordering goods straight from China can wait for their emergency appendectomy in Beijing (where, by the way, authorities have just promised to stop harvesting organs from executed prisoners without permission).
But I digress.
Frequent readers will note how calm I am about this, in striking contrast to previous years’ columns in which I argued vociferously that an extended shopping season diminishes the holiday, and that if the Good Lord wanted husbands and fathers to shop early, He wouldn’t have left 7-Eleven, with its wide selection of gift cards, open on Christmas Eve.
I have now decided that getting the shopping done early is a good thing, leaving Christmas free to be, well, Christmas. In fact, retailers could offer incentives: Beginning Dec. 1, they should add 10 per cent to the cost of every item each day until Christmas Eve, by which time a box of Purdy’s Chocolates would retail for $1,435.
Jack Knox writes for the Victoria Times Colonist.