On your mark, get set ... oh wait, the Christmas shopping season has already begun. I think it started just after Labor Day.
I really appreciate how tough it is for retailers. The next few weeks will decide if they make a profit for the year. For some of them, it may be the decision of whether they continue to exist. This includes some of the oldest names in retail.
According to various news sources, this will once again be a year for electronics, mostly things we watch. We used to call them televisions.
Televisions were once a piece of furniture. I can remember when TV dealers would have a big console color TV that took two strong men to carry. They would place them in the window at Christmas with a big bow on top. At night, they would sometimes leave them on for a little while. Folks would walk by and dream of having that octagon-shaped color TV screen bringing three wonderful channels into their homes.
People now watch flat screens. Some are as big as your hand; others are as big as your wall.
They are no longer attached to a set of rabbit ear antennas. They may be attached to cable, a satellite or some kind of device that gets its signal from the internet. We have more channels than I can identify.
I’m not sure what the hot toys are this year. If I knew the names of them, I don’t know if I could tell you what they do or look like.
I guess clothes are still a Christmas mainstay. I occasionally buy clothes on the internet, but I am old-fashioned and like walking into a store and looking at clothes. If I’m buying a shirt, I want to look at the fabric and how it is made. You can’t do that anywhere except a brick and mortar store.
My message is that there is still a strong and needed place for shopping in your own community. When you buy something locally, it pays someone’s salary and is invested again in your local community.
A store that has a location within a community pays taxes on its building and inventory that helps pay for things like your schools, parks and public safety. Most often you get a level of service that you can’t get online. An invisible person responding to your email is helpful, but someone who walks with you to help find what you are looking for is invaluable.
I miss the days when the Friday after Thanksgiving was the shotgun start to the Christmas holiday season. Stores would turn larger space into “Toyland” and kids would beg their parents to take them to see the newest stuff.
Santa would often arrive atop a firetruck or a helicopter. He would take his place on a big chair and the kids would come running.
The thing that hasn’t changed is that Christmas is about giving, not receiving. There are families that need a little help this year, so don’t forget about them as you walk the aisles of your local store.
Despite all my ranting, the best thing about Christmas is when people reach deep inside and find the extra measure of kindness that has been there all along. We were given a wonderful gift on that first Christmas. It was a gift of love, and we should share that love this year.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.