Forget Black Friday, Think Black September!

textbook_on_intemperanceIn their rush to get the jump on competitors, major retailers are already starting their holiday sales offers. While shoppers are not yet lining up at box store entrances in the summer heat, they are being actively solicited by retailers with special announcements of holiday savings.

Already in late August, Toys R Us declared that it would expand its price-match guarantee to include online retailers to insure that customers get the best possible price as they gear up for “holiday shopping.”

Wal-Mart announced it will drop the $5 fee for layaway accounts and that shoppers can now begin putting eligible items on layaway on Sept. 13. Chief merchandising and marketing officer Duncan Mac Naughton said in a statement that the move was part of the retailer’s effort to deliver “more savings, more layaway items and our commitment that they [shoppers] can give their families a great Christmas on a budget.”

The mad rush for sales comes as the economy struggles to recover. Retailers are scrambling to squeeze what consumer dollars they can amid fierce competition. This entails a willingness to reinvent holiday shopping and break rules, even if it means replacing falling snowflakes with autumn leaves.

The major retailers are coming up with all sorts of schemes to hasten the shopping experience in the six months leading up to Christmas. Some are offering seasonal clearance sales; others offer special deals on select items in October and November. and others hold standout sales daily as Black Friday approaches. Other retailers target select loyal shoppers with early access to actual Black Friday sales. Anything seems valid to get a jump on the retailer next door.

Subscription5The quickening of Christmas is a sad statement for our times. It speaks of a decay on the part of retailers and consumers alike who indulge in a culture of instant gratification, where all must be had now, instantly, regardless of the consequences. There is what might be called a rush of frenetic intemperance where all restraint must be thrown off and all desires gratified in the mad drive to secure happiness in material things. Even the word “Christmas” is often omitted as it might spoil the buying frenzies of the unnamed “holiday.” Meanwhile the real meaning of Christmas is tragically forgotten. The real joy of Christmas is not to be found in discounts and bargains but in the manger of Bethlehem.