Retail Therapy: Unwrapping the holiday season's worst moments
From overpriced Christmas catalogs to Barnes & Noble leaving books off its holiday gift guide, there were plenty of bad calls this season.
The holiday season has not been good for retail. There were animatronic deer, Christmas trees stuffed into Amazon boxes and so much more.
Here are the holiday moments we loved to hate the most.
Amazon traps Christmas in a box
They say Christmas isn't about the boxes, but Amazon tried very hard to challenge that notion this year. "How," you ask? By doing what it does best — boxing up everything that has to do with the holiday, including live trees (Christmas cheer, you're next) and shipping it to your house.
If it seems improbable to cut down a tree, stuff it in a box and ship it to someone's house, have no fear because Amazon has thought through the logistics, according to the Associated Press, and the only thing families have to sacrifice is the Christmas spirit and camaraderie that comes with going to a field and picking out your own dang tree.
And though Amazon likely didn't think about local tree growers, we did — and don't worry, the folks who make a living off of growing trees in Minnesota want us all to know that their business is safe from Amazon because, hear us out, people still want to shop for their trees in person.
If it seems hard to believe that family values could trump the convenience of e-commerce, it's possible that you are actually a massive online-based corporation.
Picking out a Christmas tree and bringing it home is 99% of the joy of having a live tree. Might as well get an artificial one if you give that up.— Nancy Rutman (@NRutman) September 12, 2018
The lady on the radio informed me that Amazon will be selling real Christmas trees this year so “you don't have to have the HASSLE of cutting down your own”— Ben Anholzer (@benanholzer) September 13, 2018
...excuse me while I burn this whole place down
I can't wait for my Thanksgiving Dinner to be delivered by an Amazon drone...lol— Karl Haynes (@karl_haynes) September 13, 2018
When it comes to holiday catalogs, size matters
In keeping with tradition, Black Friday this year brought overpriced holiday catalogs with ostentatiously festive decorations to each of our houses, and they did not disappoint.
While we can say with confidence that we will dissect the Neiman Marcus catalog at length in the next section, that's not stopping us from ripping the stuffing out of Frontgate and its (originally priced) $5,000 "Animated White Deer" first. Fifty nine inches of creepy, this pristinely white, furry and oddly angry-looking deer is the perfect companion for Frontgate's other deer-inspired decorations, including the $2,000 potted poinsettia deer, the $1,500 too-realistic-for-comfort deer and the moss-covered deer that makes it look like you hired someone to shape your shrubs instead of just paying $1,600 to buy one (on sale for $895!).
As much as we'd like to move on to other life-sized holiday decorations, including the "LED Nutcracker with Moving Hands" — which plays the drums to a song that requires no drumming — we're not even done with the deer yet. Without further ado, we bring you the "Regal Reindeer" (prepared to rule your yard if not your family's souls) and the "Wreathed Sitting Deer," which looks convincingly like an animalistic interpretation of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, harvest and general debauchery.
All of which is to say: Frontgate really likes deer. But it wouldn't be a holiday catalog if there wasn't an overpriced product for everyone in the family, and that's where Frontgate's miniature figurines come in. In order of price, we have: "Bartender Santa," because all bartenders are a combination of Santa Claus and Beetlejuice, his partner in crime "Holiday 2018 Mae," who looks like a combination of Cindy Lou Who and that one grandmother who dresses with just a bit too much flair, and best of all: Convertible Car Santa, who is not only able to craft, manufacture and deliver billions of presents every year for Christmas, but can also afford a sports car with all the leftover Christmas cheer.
So maybe preparing for the holidays costs a lot of money, but the look on your neighbor's face when they see the family of maniacal animated deer laying claim to your lawn — that's priceless.
We are #blessed to have Neiman Marcus
Thanksgiving is full of football, turkey trots (for the athletic folk), and usually the warm, wafting scent of baking. But thanks to Neiman Marcus, we were once again able to cross "homemade" and "wholesome" off our agendas because why spend time making a meal with family when you can buy one instead?
Yes, the Neiman Marcus Thanksgiving dinner haunted our dreams yet again this year, and it was $32 cheaper either because Neiman Marcus finally felt bad about gouging consumers or (more likely) the company realized that people actually enjoy making their own meals for the holidays.
Regardless, the "Kevin Garvin Whole Turkey Meal" (now back up to full price since the holidays are over) did include a lot of things you need for Thanksgiving, including: turkey, gravy and sausage stuffing (as well as a lot of things you didn't), but you wouldn't find pie on the list. And why would you, when Neiman Marcus can create a pie package instead and charge an additional $180 for that?
No dinner would be complete without the setting, though — and thankfully, Neiman Marcus offered a full set of Thanksgiving-themed platters for shoppers to stock up on, replete with pheasants and squash, that manage to say both "autumnal" and "I spent a lot of money" at the same time.
Anticipating that families fill up on overpriced food, wash their overpriced dishes and then sit down to look for more overpriced items, Neiman Marcus also released its annual Christmas Book before Thanksgiving, which featured — among other things — a $475 sock advent calendar (as in: socks, for your feet), a $98 snow globe, a $658 skateboard and a series of six watches that all cost more than $13,000.
For the type of consumer that laughs at such a miniscule level of spending, may we recommend the Dolce & Gabbana $850 toaster, which pairs beautifully with the Dolce & Gabbana $850 blender. We're all thankful for consumerism, after all.
Barnes & Noble goes off-book with holiday gift guide
There's gift-givers lacking confidence in their skills and then there's Barnes & Noble lacking so much confidence in its business model that its own holiday gift guide features a single book (as in, one).
Fortune was quick to point out that in addition to the lack of books — the assumed main product of, say, a book retailer — Barnes & Noble's gift guide was also missing any reference to the Nook, leaving more than a few questions about Barnes & Noble's value proposition.
To name a few: Why put out a holiday catalog if it doesn't put your company in a good light? Why continue making the Nook if it can't even make the list for an in-house gift guide? And what does it say about the American consumer that the only book that does make it is a book by Joanna Gaines on how to decorate a house?
And yet… there's always something worse. For the overly political, there's the "Build the Wall" toy for every child that has no idea what the implications of the building project are, Trumpy Bear — the existence of which no one seems to be able to agree on — and an 18-karat rose gold bracelet from Bulgari that is supposed to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall but also looks deceptively like a wall being built.
For those avoiding politics, never fear — there are plenty of other bad options. Including, but not limited to: a Pillsbury dough boy holiday sweater (which is actually now sold out, so forget about it) or a kids dyson vacuum, perfect for anyone that hates their kids as much as Christmas spirit.
Correction: A previous version of this story implied the wrong issuer of the "Build the Wall" toy. The toy is part of Keep and Bear's pro-Trump toy line, according to the company website. Retail Dive regrets the error.
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