Only 137 Shopping Days Left Until Christmas

Discussion
Aug 10, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Ask old St. Nick and he’ll tell you it’s never too early to start putting your Christmas shopping list together or even begin picking up an item or two for the holiday.


That’s why the man with the most accumulated air miles on the planet took time off from his vacation under the sun somewhere along the six miles of beach in Blackpool, England to make an appearance in red-and-white striped Victorian-style swim trunks at Harrod’s in London.


According to a report in The Independent, Father Christmas, as he is referred to in England, “arrived sans reindeer, accompanied instead by a seaside donkey called Dino.” Apparently, Santa’s reindeers prefer to holiday at home in the cooler climes of the North Pole.


Santa Claus’ appearance at Harrod’s in August has become a tradition for the retailer and its customers. The Independent likens it to another great English tradition, the change of the guard at Buckingham Palace.


The staff at Harrod’s say SC’s trip to the store in August to open its Christmas World department is perfect timing because many of the foreigners who go to London on holiday
in August want to take home decorations from the retailer. This year, shoppers will have a customarily wide selection of items to choose from, including “a lime-green tree bauble
(75p)” and a “shelf doll – a full-sized figure resembling a great lady from a Gainsborough portrait whose garments enclose a series of glass shelves – priced at £1,950.”


Also for sale at Harrod’s is Reindeer Barbie. The Independent describes the toy, which retails for £229, as “a typical Barbie doll, in a frilly scarlet dress with fluffy shoulder pads, long scarlet gloves and a parting to show a pair of very shapely legs. When you look at the head, however, it’s a reindeer. It’s the sort of thing Hunter S. Thompson saw on particularly heavy acid trips.”


Moderator’s Comment: What can other retailers learn from Harrod’s?
George Anderson – Moderator

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6 Comments on "Only 137 Shopping Days Left Until Christmas"


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Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

Harrod’s promotional events and quirky product merchandising are characteristic of the kind of British (Python-esque) humor that only they seem to be able to pull off with the proper touch of high-brow eccentricity. In this country, perhaps the closest parallel is with Target’s attention-getting events, such as the recent fashion show that had models scaling the side of a NY skyscraper. But typically, department stores here take themselves WAY too seriously. Even the Macy’s Day parade, which should be full of fun and surprises, is so locked-in to tradition that the notion of introducing a bit of wacky humor would seem…well, un-American.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

There are too many connotations of Christmas being a traditional holiday in England, too many nostalgic pictures and stories, too many quaint and picturesque fantasies for anything even remotely comparable to ever catch on in the US. We may have moved a million miles in your direction in terms of commercialisation but the sentiment still lurks beneath. I don’t think it ever could or ever would on your side of the Atlantic.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 6 months ago

One key advantage Harrod’s has is that it truly is an international shopping destination, so having Christmas early makes sense for travelers who may be in London any time between now and Christmas.

That said, what Harrod’s does best storewide is remember that retail can – and often, should – be theatre. Harrod’s doesn’t rely on the holidays to sell fish, yet their displays sell more than anything else a center-city department store could do.

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

Merchandising Christmas to the summer holiday crowd is simply smart business on Harrod’s part. So what if some of the promotional activities (and even merchandise) are Monty-Pythonesque? It’s all in good fun, and it probably lands a nice batch of tourist dollars along the way.

Yes, our own Macy’s does take itself too seriously at times. A summer Christmas shop would very likely generate nice sales among New York’s foreign summer tourists. Even on parade day, however, the company seems to take so many pains to avoid offending that it delivers a fairly bland result.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 6 months ago
For some shoppers, the Christmas season starts December 26th. There are certain people who shop for gifts, in an opportunistic way, all year long, putting aside the items to hold for Christmas gift surprises. It’s a small minority, but these are the “true believers” and they have $ to spend. Furthermore, if an idea is planted in someone’s consciousness, he/she may act upon it a long time later. Toys R Us, in its heyday, told everyone that they had a complete selection 365 days a year, even though their sales peak, like everyone else’s, was between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nonetheless, they established their “dominant authority” by what they did all year long. In contrast, Macy’s in NY, for many years, had no toy department at all except from September through January. So Macy’s lost its dominance in that business and Toys R Us became the king. Additionally, any positive PR stunt that results in free publicity is probably well worthwhile. Yes, Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade may seem stale to the people who read this web site,… Read more »
Robert Craycraft
Guest
Robert Craycraft
15 years 6 months ago

I don’t see how American retailers can capitalize on Christmas in August when they no longer acknowledge Christmas in December. That being said, clever and stylish events such as Neiman-Marcus’ Fortnights and, more recently, Marshall Field’s Glamorama can fill the stores with shoppers and earn priceless publicity. There are year-round Christmas stores in major tourists spots around the country. I think any upscale store could support one with plenty of logo’d merchandise for souvenir value as much as anything. Again, Field’s Frango, clock, etc. tree ornaments come to mind.

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