FUNNY BUSINESS: Newsflash to Christmas marketers: It's still summer

September 17, 2007

Four days after Labor Day, the first Christmas catalog showed up in my mailbox.

Four. Days. After. Labor. Day.

Sometimes, all you can do is shake your head.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love Christmas. I start looking forward to Christmas every Dec. 26. I am a bona fide, certified Yuletide nut.

That does not, however, mean I wish to "get a jump" on my Christmas shopping, as the catalog advised. Jump? JUMP? This isn't a jump. This is leaping entire seasons in a single bound.

And it's just wrong, on so many levels.

For starters, there are lots of great holidays between now and December, holidays that deserve a little attention before Christmas. Halloween, for instance. I know, I know, I've said some snarky things about Halloween in the past, about how it seems to have been taken over by grown-ups and how I get 20-year-old trick or treaters showing up at the door without even an attempt at a costume. Besides that, the candy corn doesn't taste as good as it used to.

Well, just the same, it's not nice to shove aside Halloween in the hurry to hoho-ho.

And then there's Thanksgiving, a holiday I truly love, and not just for the meal. Well, not completely for the meal. Anyway, every year it seems like the Forces Of Marketing want to hurry past Thanksgiving, or use it simply as a springboard to December-to make the greatest American holiday of them all a mere JV game before the Varsity takes the floor.

Every year I worry about it. This year I'll worry even more.

And let us not forget Mike's Birthday, that glorious day, a favorite of young and old alike, a day of joyous celebration, which ... wait a minute. I just realized how many candles are going to be on the cake this year. Never mind.

The point is, it is simply too early for Christmas catalogs. Have we forgotten that Christmas catalogs have the power to stop time? It's true. Remember when you were a kid and the Sears Christmas catalog arrived? Once you wrested it away from your brother and started poring over it, drawing circles around your selections in red crayon (or, to save effort, just circling entire pages), you caused a rip in the space-time continuum. Clocks slowed, calendars refused to turn their pages. The week expanded to nine days and December became 74 days long. And it took forever for Christmas to arrive.

Now the people sending out the catalogs want forever to last even longer.

This is tough on kids and on Christmas nuts like me. Maybe even more on me because I came to my Christmas nuttiness rather late in life. Remember, I'm the guy who once wrote a song titled "I Really Don't Like Christmas (I'm Just Here For The Food)" and meant it.

Now I'm the guy scouring eBay for old decorations. I'm the guy thinking of buying another end table so I can properly display my collection of Santa Claus statues. Not a week ago, I launched into a spirited defense of the fresh Christmas tree (formerly referred to by me as the "resin-soaked firebomb") after my sister mused aloud about going to all-artificial trees (she usually puts up a minimum of three, one real and two fakes).

I am the guy who, on a block known for understated, tasteful decorations, wants to pimp his house, Santa style. Which I guess makes me something of a Holiday Ho Ho Ho.

I'm the guy who already has a pretty good idea what he's going to buy for his loved ones this Christmas.

But that doesn't mean I want to start getting catalogs in September.

I'm no expert, but I have a theory about what's going on here. Could it be that some retailers are afraid of soft Christmas sales and so have decided the answer is to start the shopping season a little early? As in late summer?

Well, my friends at this particular catalog company are right about one thing. Their Christmas sales will be a little soft this year, because they won't be getting any of my money. Somebody has to stand up for what's right. In fact, I'm going to throw their catalog away without looking at it.

OK, maybe a peek. Hey, they might have something I need. That table I mentioned, for example. Yeah, that's it. I'll just look to see if they have a table I like.

But I promise I won't order it until the Thanksgiving dishes are cleared.

That'll show 'em.

Redmond is an author, columnist and speaker, and a consultant on business writing and workplace issues. His column appears monthly. You can reach him at mredmond@ibj.com.
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