I wasn’t sure of a lot growing up – books disintegrate in the bath some days, but on others they just go crackly and if that’s not a sign the universe is a risky place, I don’t know what is – but I was sure of one thing: Christmas marketing in September is for wankers. There is a pure and fiery place in hell for the motherfuckers in charge of Clintons and Smiths and Sainsburys who decide to introduce Christmas stock before schools go back. Before Halloween. Before I’m ready to put my shorts away and get out my scarves.
Winter is coming, hiss advent calendars and crackers. The year is nearly over, whisper tablecloths and novelty teapots. We want to access your bank account and bleed you dry, murmur the fake Christmas trees.
DIE IN A HOLE, I retort as I browse for factor 15 or Halloween confetti or regular teapots. YOU WILL NEVER CONVINCE ME THAT CHRISTMAS SHOULD START UNTIL AFTER BONFIRE NIGHT.
I feel like this every year. It’s bad enough that Christmas is expensive and loses its magic a bit more every year; I won’t be bullied into buying cheap seasonal cushion covers. And yet recently I’ve realised that I’m well on my way to becoming a giant hypocrite. I preach, but I don’t practise.
Because here’s a fact they don’t pin to gondolas in Debenhams: when you run a shop, even a tiny one on Etsy, Christmas has to start in July at the latest. It has to. Because if you start it any later, you may as spend the rest of the year with your feet up, picturing money you’ll never hold going down the drain.
There’s stock to order and goals to set, last year’s stats to analyse and shipping times to work out. There’s Black Friday game plans and seasonal packaging, contingency plans and Instagram graphics.There’s custom orders versus regular ones, craft fair table decorations and notes on scrap paper as you calculate how much cash you can tie up in products that might sell. If you’re an artist and you carve out time in your day to make art, you carve up that part of the day to become an accountant, a marketing manager, a PR officer, an HR admin – even more than you would the rest of the year. You worry over minute photo details, because that’s where the devil lives, and rewrite product descriptions until you fall in love with a postcard you’ve seen every day for a year. You sign up to newsletters to learn about ‘streamlining your shipping station’ and ‘managing your brand’.
You actually find it kind of fun, because the aim is to earn as much money from your art as you can during the most affluent time of year… and if you were happy just to make the art, you wouldn’t have started an Etsy shop.
By the first of October, you think you’ve got it. You’ve got notes and stock and to do lists and you can picture yourself emerging from the January sales with triumphant fistfuls of profit that make those fourteen hour work days worth it.
And then you remember –
Halloween is in a few weeks. It’s supposed to be your dry run.
You’d better dig out last year’s stats and grab your confetti. The time for targeted marketing isn’t 6th November, it’s now.
You’re all getting little plastic bats if you order from me until the 31st. You might get little plastic snowflakes in November and December. There’s money in the nation’s pockets and I’d rather it went to me than to Debenhams.
I probably deserve to get cheap seasonal cushion covers for Christmas, but I promise I will never try to sell you a novelty tea pot.