Archive for Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday shopping now a whole new beast

December 9, 2014

If there is one major change in the holiday season, it is shopping habits. Now the shopping season starts before Halloween and picks up speed in November. By December there is an all out, no-holds-barred effort to separate shoppers from their money. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not the least provoked by the retail push, and I understand that retailers have to have a big Christmas to survive.

When I first started in the newspaper business, we never had a Christmas advertisement until Thanksgiving. The heaviest advertising came in the early weeks of December. In those “old days” the bulk of Christmas merchandise was in newspaper ads. Now the internet, television and direct mail command most of the retail advertising money.

Shoppers have a variety of enticements now. There is Black Friday, pre-Black Friday, small business day and cyber Monday to name a few. Then, of course, there is always online shopping, which takes a growing percentage of customers. Yes, there is a lot of competition for retail dollars. That’s really nothing new since merchants were complaining about those who shopped with mail order houses in the early decades of the 20th century.

The early shopping is quite a change. Back in the 1930s or 1940s when money was tight, many families waited until Christmas Eve, when Gamble’s Stores or other retailers put toys on sale for half price.

I remember when the girls were young Jean spent hours stewing over the right gift for each child. She logged hours on the phone trying to find the location where a popular gift was in stock. Me? I am not a shopper, but I did spend many Saturdays driving to a store to pick up a doll or game that we had reserved.

Probably the most unusual trip to pick up a gift was when we lived in Mulvane. We had hidden a bicycle in the newspaper office. About 11:30 p.m. I walked the four blocks or so to the newspaper and rode the bicycle home so it would be under the tree on Christmas morning. I’m glad those days are over.

I still don’t shop. A long time ago Jean and I agreed to choose our own gifts and act surprised on Christmas morning. In the old days, I always got a new pipe. Now I usually get books.

There is no doubt that toys have changed over the years. Jean said when she was young she wanted a doll or toy dishes. I remember getting a football game that you played by drawing cards and a lever-operated basketball game. Growing up during World War II, we got military toys. Cowboys were very popular at the movies and many kids got “play guns” complete with caps to shoot. Cowboy hats and costumes were popular with both boys and girls. Sporting equipment such as footballs, basketballs, etc. have always been good Christmas gifts. Lots of kids got sleds, but usually there was no snow.

Now kids want electronic gizmos with names that I can’t pronounce let alone understand how they are used. The move to electronic gifts probably started in the late 1950s or 1960s with transistor radios or record players. One thing is for certain some electronic gifts are cheaper now. The Chieftain in 1964 advertised a transistor radio and carrying case for $19.95. A 23-inch black and white TV was on sale for $189.95. One grocery store had oranges priced at 10 for $1 and added they were the “perfect stocking stuffer.”

Yes, things have changed from the days gone by when it comes to Christmas gifts. However one thing remains constant and that is, it’s still the thought and love behind the gift that really counts.

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