Today marks the start of November, the month which is reserved for this country’s annual national independence celebrations. Usually at this time there is a preponderance of traditional Bajan music on the airwaves and patriotic decorations in both public and private sector companies, helping to set a nationalistic sentiment. However, this year there seems to be more of a focus on Christmas time instead.
In the past this phenomenon has drawn the ire of many Barbadians who complained that Barbados’ Independence should not share the limelight with Yuletide celebrations, and that the latter should wait until after November 30 to commence. Most commercial businesses complied with this overriding sentiment, however begrudgingly, and waited until December 1. Yet, this year there seems to be a major push to spread a Christmas spirit earlier. On the airwaves, for instance, there has been a marketing campaign to have Christmas in October on one station, with festive music playing throughout the day, each day, for the entire month. Also, in City stores Christmas merchandise has already been set out with accompanying decorations, and in some supermarkets, shoppers can already choose their hams, while listening to instore Christmas music.
From the perspective of the business owner, this early focus on Christmas may be a strategy to lengthen the time available for consumers to actively spend for the season. A December 1, start date leaves a little more than three weeks for businesses to make a profit, so an earlier start date could generate more income. But is this really effective?
When Christmas is evident as early as October, there is a risk that consumers can lose interest before December 25, and this would defeat the purpose of getting consumers to spend Christmas cash. Rather, what businesses could try is a Christmas in July promotion, which is done around the world, and leaves ample time for consumers to shake off the festive feeling and pick it up again in December.
Furthermore, Barbadian businesses can utilise Independence marketing to push sales in November as well, instead of Black Friday or Thanksgiving promotions. There are many ways to encourage spending in the local economy without undermining Barbadian culture at this important time. Just consider last year’s 50th anniversary Independence celebrations, which saw a host of commercial ventures making the most from that milestone.
As we draw closer to our 51st anniversary celebrations, we urge businesses to not only keep Christmas sacred and reserved to December, but to also keep this country’s Independence sacred and separate. Put more effort into marketing and advertising strategies and show more initiative. Media houses are also encouraged to support local music and programming and refrain from jumping the gun on Christmas carols and shows.
Although the level of celebrations will undoubtedly fall short of last year’s Independence pageantry, it is still important that we come together as a country to reflect on the strides we have made throughout history and in recent months, and set goals for where we want Barbados to go in the future.