retail news in context, analysis with attitude

This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.by Kevin Coupe

Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

I don't know about you, but it isn't even Thanksgiving yet, and I'm already sick and tired of Christmas. It's not that I'm a "bah, humbug" kind of guy. It's just that I know the flood of stories about holiday sales have only just begun, and I'll have to dutifully report on them, because, in fact, they are important to the retail and manufacturing communities.

But that doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.

I'm not going to launch into some sort of whine about the commercialization of Christmas. (And by the way, a note to all those folks who will spend so much time over the next few weeks caterwauling about the so-called "war on Christmas." There is no such thing, unless you count the fact that what everybody celebrates as Christmas would appear to have little to do with the original meaning of the holiday. That's what they ought to be ticked off about — too many people celebrating something that has little or no resemblance to the spirt of the holiday.) In fact, I like many of the commercial elements of Christmas … few things compare, for example, to looking at store windows at Christmastime, or going to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. I even like shopping for Christmas presents, though I'd rather have a colonoscopy that visit a Toys R Us store between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

It's just that, with some justification, everybody is jockeying for position during the holidays. Sure, the success or failure of a year can be determined for many companies by how well they do over the coming month. But so much of it has to do with cutting prices, then cutting them again, and engaging in lowest common denominator tactics just to make the next sale. It seems like a time when long-term vision gets tossed out the window by many companies, because it is all about short-term gratification. I see stories about how JC Penney, for example, may have a better holiday than expected … but to me, this is like going on life support, when the actual business model may well be terminal. We all ignore the big stories because the little stories get in the way.

That's too bad. I think that for the retailer that is really doing its job, Christmas ought to be a time when it builds on the brand equity that it has built during the preceding 11 months, not a time when it gets a chance to make up for the inadequacies of the past 11 months.

Maybe that's unrealistic. Maybe we live with such a short-term mindset that it is impossible to view the holidays as anything but a mad dash for the finish line, which is why so many companies seem to be moving the starting line in the hope of getting a head start and some sort of advantage.

But that's too bad. Not to sound cranky, but there are days when I think that the holidays cannot come and end fast enough.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: