Warning to anxious retailers printing up holiday catalogs with your shopping season fingers crossed: Don't just say a prayer for decent sales this year. (And try to say it to the right deity). Absolutely, positively make sure you don't shy away from the using word "Christmas" in your crass annual attempt to pander to all those secular customers.
This bit of stern seasonal advice comes from Colorado Springs' Focus on the Family, one of the key actors and donors in the Yes on 8 campaign. (Over $600,000, according to our SF Gate contributor database.)
This is a little table-turning on the calls by some No on 8 supporters for a boycott of businesses that gave to the proposition. Only Focus isn't handing out over-the-knee spankings (with or without a "safe word") about same sex marriage. Instead they've just posted their second annual online shoppers guide identifying retailers that are "Christmas-negligent" or, even worse, "Christmas-offensive."
According to the Colorado Springs Gazette:
"(Christmas) friendly retailers are so designated because they prominently use "Merry Christmas" and other Christmas-specific references in their catalogs and in-store promotions. Those on the Christmas-offensive list use phrases such as "happy holidays" and have "apparently abandoned" the use of the word "Christmas," Focus said. Christmas-negligent companies "marginalize" their message by using "Christmas" in some cases and "holidays" in others."
So words do have meaning - and are clearly important to Newt Gingrinch (I mean, Gingrich) who may not approve of gift-worshiping heathens and rails against the "gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us."
Focus spokeswoman Sonja Swiatkiewicz tells the Gazette that this "is not a boycott. Consumers can do what they wish with the information." But such campaigns apparently have some effect. In 2005, the Gazette notes, Sears, Kmart, Walmart and Target all shifted to "Christmas-friendly" language from the generic "holiday season" after boycott threats from religious groups.
This year's Focus campaign, the Gazette says, sent out letters to 33 retailers about using the Christmas language. According to the Gazette, "Eight agreed - we don't know which - three were noncommittal (isn't commitment the issue here?). The rest have not responded."
But, the newspapers' accounting is a little off. Because here in SF, the white hot center of the No on 8 campaign, retailer Gap, Inc. has committed to keeping its Christmas-offensive neutral holiday language. Gap, which also owns Banana Republic and Old Navy, is "aware that our customers come from many faith backgrounds," said company spokeswoman Melissa Swanson. "We honor that by not advertising toward people of any one faith. We want all our customers to experience a warm and friendly shopping experience."
Warm and friendly, like faith, is all in the definition.
Just so you know, Focus on the Family knows the pain side of giving as well as receiving in a bad economy. While it hopes to put some pressure on wayward retailers' bottom line, the group itself just announced it was eliminating 202 jobs, 18 percent of its workforce - the heaviest cuts in its 32-year history - and is slashing its annual budget from $160 million to $138 million.
Tough times all over. But Focus isn't likely to abandon its crusade.
And don't even think about using "Xmas." You'd be opening yourself up to a world of hurt.
Merry, uh, mmm, er, well, you know.