There is no other industry quite like Retail. As you can see from the lapse in my blog - starting September is a race of endurance with very little free time. Everyone is back in the school schedule and settling down and you would think that we would be too. No, not really. Really, the summer items have been clearanced, and it is a race to the holidays.
Everyone is enjoying the cooling temperatures. The busy schedule of vacations and family reunions has been fulfilled. Of course, we try to get out the fall decorations, the little knit gloves for when it gets "chilly", the sweaters and jackets and just be ready for fall. But in retail, the fact is you have about 45 days to get ready for, sell, and get rid of Halloween.
You don't want to dawdle with Halloween because Thanksgiving is 22 to 27 days away (yes, this year it was 22).
Thanksgiving, unfortunately, has always been the holiday that gets the least attention - in retail, anyway. I guess it's kind of like the middle child. We love to get the cornucopia decorations and the fall leaf tablecloths and table settings. Everyone is planning their menu for Thanksgiving dinner and working on their guest list or travel plans. But in retail, Christmas starts the day after Thanksgiving and you have 28 to 33 days to be full of, sell, and get rid of Christmas (not meaning to sound Scrooge-ish).
In actuality - all three holidays usually start coming out at about the same time at Merchandise Outlet. Of course, we focus on Halloween first - pull everything out of the stock rooms that has accumulated over the year (yes, it accumulates when dealing with liquidation) and actually "Make a Department for Halloween". Of course, "Harvest" is usually mixed with Halloween because what is the difference except a face on the pumpkin (that's called a jack-o-lantern) or not (this could represent pumpkin pie?).
By mid September, though, all of the Christmas merchandise is arriving in the warehouse. Some of you may have seen our warehouse in Mt. Pleasant. It isn't exactly a monstrosity of space where we warehouse merchandise for distribution. It is more of a big hub that has space for semis to deliver pallets of merchandise that can be split amongst 10 stores and sent out as quickly as possible to make more room for more semis to deliver.
Needless to say, the stores receive Christmas merchandise by October. Off to the side of the Halloween and Harvest area, they try to carve out a little space where they can start stocking Christmas - because what else are they going to do with it? I know, we constantly hear "Christmas, already?" Really, it's like the Battle of the Bulge. We have nowhere to go from here.
Meanwhile, the other shelves are getting filled up with toys for Christmas, winter hats & gloves, coats, and all the other everyday stock.
Most of our stores work with local organizations to coordinate giving opportunities such as Toys for Tots, Veteran organizations, Community Compassion organizations, Family Pantries, Christmas Outreach, and more. Time is spent working budgets and ordering merchandise and shipping and handling.
By the time we actually get near Black Friday - we have to make a huge assessment of what has already sold out for winter and Christmas (since mostly it was ordered last spring, and apparently we didn't order enough) and see what can be re-filled - which is not always easy in the liquidation industry. Now we have to hurry and get that stuff to the shelves because we only have 20-some days left until Christmas.
That is, in a nutshell, how you get from mid September to the first week of December at Merchandise Outlet.
The employees have been working tirelessly changing the shelves of stock from one holiday to another, refilling the inventory that has been selling twice as fast as any other season and helping the customers complete their Christmas lists.
The retail industry can be a very difficult industry, especially in this season. Many employees work longer and harder hours. Everyone faces budget constraints, time management issues, gift giving options, etc. Let's face it, in today's society, the Christmas season can be as much stress as it can be joyful.
We will be doing our best to infect you with our smiles and calm your racing heart. Be mindful of others this season - fellow shoppers, cashiers, servers, neighbors, strangers and acquaintances. Bring the joy to others and joy will come to you.
From all of us at Merchandise Outlet - Have a Very Merry Christmas!