By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
After many years of enduring innocuous labels for Christmas such as “happy holidays” and “season’s greetings,” it appears that politically correct retailers are finally getting the message and are returning “Merry Christmas” to their ads and store displays in record numbers.
MSNBC is reporting that Randy Sharp, director of special projects at the American Family Association (AFA), one of the largest organizations involved in fighting the Christmas culture war, said that in the past five years the group has seen the percentage of retailers recognizing Christmas in their advertising rise from 20 percent to 80 percent. They now have only seven retailers on the group’s list of “Companies Against Christmas.”
“We’ve had a complete flip,” Sharp told MSNBC. “The politically correct holiday verbiage is going away. Companies are getting the message.”
For instance, Lowe’s “Family Trees” are now being sold as “Christmas Trees” once again, and Walmart changed it’s “Holiday Shop” back to a “Christmas Shop.” Target and Gap have also returned to the use of “Merry Christmas” in their ads. Best Buy and Sears have also “seen the light” in recent years and returned to traditional Christmas advertising.
The flip back to recognition of the Christian meaning of Christmas has been so thorough, in fact, the AFA is finding it difficult to choose a retailer whose dismissal of Christmas is onerous enough to warrant a boycott.
This year the AFA singled out Dick’s Sporting Goods for a boycott because of their refusal to use the word “Christmas” in their advertising. The pro-family organization sent out an e-mail to its 2.3 million members on a Thursday afternoon asking them to contact Dick’s corporate offices and voice their displeasure at the company’s disregard for Christmas. By 10:30 the following morning, Dick’s vice-chairman, Bill Columbo, called the AFA to say they will begin using “Christmas” in its newspaper inserts, on its website and in their television commercials effective Nov. 28.
“This is a huge win for the pro-faith community in America,” said AFA executive vice-president Buddy Smith shortly after they called off the boycott. “It’s gratifying to see a retailer like Dick’s recognize that our nation has specifically set aside December 25 to honor the birthday of Jesus Christ. And we’ve done that because of the impact of the life of Christ on the world and American history. That’s what this season is ultimately about.”
It’s also about money, he said. “Dick’s, like virtually every other major corporation in America, is coming to realize that 91% of Americans celebrate Christmas and that it just doesn’t make good business sense to risk offending nine out of every 10 people you want to buy your products. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain when a company keeps Christ in Christmas and keeps Christmas in its advertising.”
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), they began to see the trend change back to Christmas last year when several major retailers returned to the use of the word “Christmas”.
“There wasn’t a huge outcry from groups offended that retailers were saying Merry Christmas,” said Ellen Davis, a vice president at the NRF. “We see the word Christmas being used much more this year than three or four years ago. The pendulum seems to have swung back.”
Retailers were surprised by what Davis refers to as an “extreme backlash” from consumers who were much more offended by the generic holiday messaging than by the use of the word “Christmas.”
There are still a few holdouts, however. The AFA’s lists the following retailers as being against Christmas: Barnes & Noble, CVS Pharmacy, Office Depot, Radio Shack, Staples, SUPERVALU and Victoria’s Secret.
Some say the AFA and other groups are bullying retailers, but Sharp disagrees.
“It’s not bullying, it’s consumer advocacy,” he told MSNBC. If a retailer refuses to acknowledge Christmas, they should not expect to profit from it. “When your advertising has trees and ornaments and gift wrapping, you’re advertising Christmas, so don’t call it holiday,” he said.
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