By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding
By the end of today or maybe tomorrow morning you’ll be tearing November off your wall calendar. That leaves only December, with the magical red Day No. 25 in the lower right corner.
Everything switches into high gear for the holiday season. Your Muzak system goes from Morris Albert droning on about “Feelings” to Andy Williams chanting about “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Stores from Florida and Alabama to Hawaii and Alaska decorate their windows with snowflakes and images of the North Pole. Your work friends will schlep out previously hidden cookie sheets and Bundt pans and bring in their home-baked goods, all with a hidden plan to help us put on a few more pounds before making New Year’s resolutions.
Movie time at home changes too. There will be a few less action movies and period-piece tear-jerkers and a lot more holiday films. Everyone has their favorites: for some it’s Elf; for others Home Alone (versions I, II and 3) or A Christmas Story. My personal fave is 1947’s It’s a Wonderful Life with James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore.
While not originally intended to be a holiday movie, the plot centers on George Bailey, a financially struggling owner of a small building-and-loan bank who is compelled to attempt suicide on Christmas Eve as he is unable to pay a large debt. He wishes in vain that he was never born. Through the magic of Hollywood, he is able to see how worse his hometown would be without him.
The next time (or first time) you watch the movie this month look for the struggle between poor Bailey and his antagonist, the wealthy and stingy banker Henry Potter (played by Barrymore). Potter is the typical fat-cat businessman who built his business at the expense of his customers. In contrast, Bailey suffers financially but works with his community to get them to invest in themselves. He had the foresight to see the housing boom of post-war America while Potter retreated to the Depression era of past days.
Had the story been able to continue we would find George Bailey as a successful developer and home builder to a new generation looking for a better life, while Potter would have been brought up on charges for bank fraud and usury.
Enjoy this upcoming December and the holiday season! The world will not magically change on January 1, 2021, but the way people shop has, and how we do business will need to change. You offer merchandise and services that are intended to make people’s lives better, but so does the store down the street (and with e-commerce, the store on the next street and around the world). Going to market with whiz-bang sales and no payments until the year 3000 will no longer be enough to attract shoppers who are looking for products and sellers that will make their lives and world better.
Take some time while munching on those cookies, cakes and perhaps a sip of eggnog to plan your unique proposition. It could be luxury service with no extra cost; value-added promotions with real value; programs to build your community; support of first responders or military; or simple pricing plans and easy exchanges with no hidden fees.
It’s a Wonderful Life is a story of a bygone time with an enduring contemporary message. We are all here, now, for a reason, and the world (be it our business world, community world or family world) would be very different without us. It’s also the message of being proactive at key moments, rather than reactive with a desire to crush innovation.
We toast the George Baileys of our time. They are, to paraphrase the last scene, the richest people in town.
Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at email@example.com.