Christmas in November

As I write, there’s snow piled up in my office’s windowpane from the Nov. 11 snowfall here in Dodge City, Kansas. I’ve broken out the heavy winter coat and gloves, the Christmas ads are filling my TV and email, and I’ve had my first bout of winter-related car trouble.

I don’t care what the calendar says it must be Christmas.

Now, if you’re one of my co-workers, you loathe anything Christmas coming before Thanksgiving. “It’s unnatural and greedy,” she says. And I suppose she has a point. But having worked in retail myself let me tell you, the months of September through January are really “Retail Harvest.” And any farmer understands, when the crop is ready, you have to get it out of the field as best as you can.

Look, I know that the season is not just a commercial event. And there’s a part of me that wishes retail stores could make their budgets without the holiday push. But economics are economics. And if you care at all about thriving downtowns in the summer time, you should also understand that they have a harvest in the wintertime.

Let’s start by considering just the labor it takes to get a store, a downtown, or a mall stocked and festive for holiday shoppers. Those retail elves working in the stores and our downtowns have to decorate a store, unbox and stock goods, update inventory and generally get the atmosphere festive enough for holiday shoppers to part with their cash. Downtown decorations have to be hung by city workers when the weather cooperates. Behind every bough, bunting, twinkling light and tree there is a human helper. All of which are paid employees. Think about how much time it takes a farmer to get equipment ready for harvest, now picture if you had to do all that while waiting on customers that interrupted you every five minutes.

And people will shop early—even if you aren’t an early shopper yourself. Crafters have to find ideas, instructions and materials and then make the items, wrap and ship them all before Dec. 25. Families that are spread out geographically have to purchase and ship items before Dec. 16 for guaranteed placement under the tree on Christmas morning. People on fixed incomes and those who don’t want to put Christmas on a credit card spread out their purchases over time so that they can buy presents and still pay monthly bills. My own grandmother used to bake Christmas cookies and freeze them in September so that she could spend time with her family and not in the kitchen in the middle of December.

All of this means that a store manager needs to have products on display for that consumer to see, budget for, purchase, make, wrap and ship, long before the panic sets in midnight Dec. 24.

We all want to celebrate the season. There are office parties and gift exchanges, church programs and potlucks, friendship feasts and family traditions. Shopping for that special gift to show the people you love that you’re thinking of them at Christmas is a part of those traditions.

Just remember, when you want to grumble about Christmas in November, there are people out there who look at this as their harvest season for their businesses too. Economic development doesn’t cease being critical to a healthy community just because it’s a holiday.

So yes, I’m going to be celebrating Christmas in November this weekend and the next one too. I’ve got crafts to make, cookies to bake and local retailers to thank with my dollars for their help in making it all happen.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].