Monday, January 04, 2010

Happy New Year! Now let's make with the Valentine's stuff...

Time for another year of this making a living from my art! I know I am very fortunate to be deriving any income from my art right now, much less all of it. It has been a new experience doing this during a down economy. Fortunately for me, people have continued to support my efforts, and I am extremely thankful for that.

I researched quite a bit this year. Mostly about the business of being a business by reading books that on the surface seemed to be very pop-culture, but actually contained a lot of business theory. One book was about holidays, and how the retail calendar is driven by holidays. To some extent, all retail businesses adhere to this calendar.

For some of us, it is merely a big push during the Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa season. I do a couple holiday pushes a year, mostly Valentine's and the December holidays, and it helps to even out the ups and downs of the retail calendar. Others take every opportunity to use holidays to drive sales. Once you are a business, you don't always have the luxury of not making the most of every opportunity to sustain your business. In some cases, if you don't promote to a holiday, it's like closing up shop for a while, as other businesses that do follow the holiday marketing calendar attract consumers, and your business just catches the occasional passer-by. Keeping this in mind makes it easier for me to not be so offended by the rapid transition to the next holiday retail displays.

The sales of the last quarter of the year can generate a lot of momentum for a merchant, and I often hear of proprietors who make most of their income on the days leading up to Christmas. Then the tumbleweeds start to blow by in January. As a business owner, it seems a shame to let any steam you have gathered just dissipate.

Now, I'm not talking about the big retailers like Target and Wal-mart. They always seem to have something that people need. But they also have to compete for holiday dollars. In this economy especially, they have to get those Christmas decorations down quickly and get the hearts and cupids up right away. It's about maximizing the opportunity for sales during a given period of time. It may look like greed, but they are businesses that have to stay afloat just like the rest of us. Not promoting when your competitors are promoting is not going to help one stay afloat.

People say it starts around Thanksgiving, but really it happens all year long. "It's disgusting!", we say. "Every year they start earlier and earlier." Christmas Creep, it's called, but it could just as easily be Cupid Creep, St. Patrick's Sneak, or Mother's Day... well, I can't think of one for Mother's Day. Maybe just being Mother's Day, a holiday created to generate commerce is enough. (Mom's do deserve their own day).

Point is, many businesses base their promotions on our buying patterns, and we tend to spend a lot of money during holidays. I think most people's complaints about Christmas Creep is directed more toward big retailers, the largest adherents to the holiday retail calendar. Who can blame the little guys for using whatever accepted reasons are available to encourage people to help keep their businesses alive? Especially these days? Who can blame the big guys? It would be nice to have a break from be sold to all the time. It would be nice not to have to sell all the time. Boon or bust, the competitive market is gonna creep all over you.

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