Thursday, July 14, 2011

Supply and Demand

I hereby demand that stores stop selling products months before anyone is every ready to buy them.

My daughter had been out of school for exactly seven days before I received my first brochure in the mail hawking back to school supplies. Seven days. I barely had enough time to air out her lunchbox and wash all of her water bottles before TRU, Land’s End, and L.L. Bean started stuffing my mail box with glossy pictures of next season’s items. I went into Staples the other day and had to wind my way around display after display of heavily discounted crayons, scissors, markers, and pens. In a quick stop at Hallmark, I was dumb enough to ask why an entire section was covered in Christmas paper only to be dumbstruck by the response that they are going to unveil their entire line of Christmas ornaments this coming Saturday.

Which leads me to the obvious question, who is buying these products?

There has to be a reason that Hallmark is trying to sell Christmas in July, or Staples is trying to hustle Crayola in June. But surely, it can’t be based on customer demand, right? Does anyone need to decorate a tree in summer? Can you get a cut pine without getting arrested? Honestly, I applaud the person who can make these purchases and actually put them away until the time is ready to use them. I am not that person. I assure you, if I bought an ornament any earlier than November, I would find it months later, still in its bag, probably crushed to bits. The same would happen with pre-bought school supplies. I would stash them someplace the kids couldn’t find them and lose them forever.

Which brings us right back around to wondering who is doing the purchasing? I swear, back when I was a kid, this shit came out in-season. School supplies didn’t hit stores until the first checks were due for school tuitions. (Don’t get me started on all the college junk for sale. Where was Target when I was in school, eh?) Halloween decorations didn’t come in until school supplies went out. No one had Thanksgiving decorations (thankfully, since those little Pilgrims make me twitch), and Christmas decorations only arrived once all the last of the Halloween stuff went out. It also seemed to be a more gradual end. I remember having to go to Walgreens the day before school started because on the day of, everything would be back to regular price. Still in the store mind you, just no longer on sale. Everything wasn’t yanked at midnight on October 31st or December 25th. I was in charge of the Valentine craft for my son’s preschool class this year and was had to scramble to purchase the last two craft kits, at 75 percent discount, a full two weeks before February 14th. What’s up with that? What is the rush to jump right into the next holiday before we get a chance to enjoy the previous one?

If I ran the world, beyond switching the health benefits of sugar and vegetables, I would force stores to produce items only in season. If food should only be eaten in season for the best flavor, the same should be said for swing sets, and snow suits, and knee-high boots. Surely, if you only sold Christmas ornaments say between Black Friday and Boxing Day, you would build more of a demand for the product? If you kept everything full price, but only out for a limited time, instead of out for a long period of time, but discounted, you would make more money? I have the brain of an English major and my only retail experience is in book stores, but there has to be a better way to bring demand than to encourage excessive supply. I don’t want to have to buy my kid’s Halloween costume by Labor Day because it won’t be in stock by Columbus Day and spend the intervening time praying the kid doesn’t change her mind. I want to shop to the calendar – I want to buy shorts in July and a coat in February, not vice versa.

At some point, jumping the seasons is going to jump the shark and those will be happy days indeed.

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