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  • What Happens When The Shopper Can’t Tell

    What more can retailers do to inflict visual pain upon their customers?

    Over the last three Christmas shopping seasons more and more shoppers see less and less Christmas decorations in stores. Now, 37% of holiday shoppers noticed less Christmas decorations in their favorite stores and one third of those shoppers said it made them want to buy less! As I speak with store executives who oversee store display, they tell me their budgets are cut more year after year.

    Even my 8-year-old daughter said to me, “This can’t be Macy’s dad, I just saw Macy’s in Miracle on 34th Street.” I said, “You know, you’re right, let’s leave!” When my 8-year-old daughter notices the lack of Christmas decorations, it’s time to say, “Hey, wake up before you lose her too.”

    What has happened to retail being a theatre of the mind challenging customers to imagine what they could have? Have earnings become so pre-dominant that making the store look like a winter wonderland is no longer important? To whom is it not important? To the shareholders who will someday see lower earnings as disappointed shoppers don’t come back this year to shop?

    It is one thing to take Merry Christmas out of the store greeting and make employees say Happy Holidays instead. But it’s another to reduce Christmas decorations to such a minimum that you would not know it was Christmas except for limited Christmas decorations on sale. We have taken Santa Claus out of the retail stores and made him pitch his tent in the center of the mall where he is more concerned about getting his picture taken (for a fee) with your children than to find out what they want to get for Christmas. Isn’t it amazing how many stores dropped their toy departments after Santa was sent to the mall rather than maintaining his North Pole area in the store.

    Retail stores are making the biggest marketing mistakes of their corporate lives by yielding to the mall and letting the mall create the impressive Christmas displays. This coming year retailers may not feel the full wrath of shoppers over the lack of Christmas decorations, but in the last 3 years the number of shoppers who have noticed diminished store displays has risen from 8% to 17% to 37%. When that number reaches 51% you will find out what happens when a majority of America gets upset.

    So when consumers can’t tell it’s Christmas, how much business will you do in your store? I can answer that question with this certainty. MUCH LESS.