July 28, 2013

Too soon for back-to-school bargains

The first specials and displays began to appear right after the Fourth of July weekend.

Down came the red, white and blue bunting, the mini flags, the patriotic T-shirts, the sparklers, the George Washington and Ben Franklin life-size cardboard cutouts, all of the the “USA! USA! USA!” novelty items manufactured in China.

Up went the replacement displays. Three-ring binders. Notebooks. Protractors. Highlighters. Glue sticks. No. 2 pencils. No. 37 pencils. Pencils of all colors and sizes. It was a back-to-school sale, prominent enough to stop the heart of a young child.

My own son stared at it with wide, unbelieving eyes.

“But … but … but dad, we just got out of school, didn’t we?” he sputtered. “It’s not starting again, is it? Tell me it isn’t starting again. The pain! The pain!”

He then began to hyperventilate, while a store employee warmed up the portable defibrillator.

Understand that to this point we hadn’t had a day of summer sunshine, not a single 24-hour period of unfettered warmth. It was barely two weeks into what he thought would be a long, relaxing break from the rigors of academic study.

Instead, persistent offers of 50-cent discounts on erasers and buy one, get one free paper clips were infringing on his ability to relax.

I know that summer can be a rough time for advertisers. Once we get past Independence Day, there are no other holidays — not even one of those artificially manufactured ones like Valentine’s Day or Father’s Day — until Labor Day.

Unfortunately, what would be the point of advertising Labor Day sales items two months in advance? None. What kind of products would a store push for Labor Day? Come and get your work uniform specials? Fifty percent off union pamphlets?

I’ve tried offering up my August birthday as another potential advertising target — a bridge between holidays — but major retailers have been slow to embrace that idea.

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