Did you hear?...Dick’s sees ‘the Christmas light,’ avoids boycott by family group

When is “holiday” a bad word? When it replaces the word “Christmas,” according to the American Family Association. But Dick’s Sporting Goods acts quickly to avoid a boycott by the group’s 2.3 million members. What did it do?

When is “holiday” a bad word? When it replaces the word “Christmas,” according to the American Family Association.

In the days leading up to Black Friday, the American Family Association sent out an “action alert” to its 2.3 million member network calling for a boycott through Christmas of Dick’s Sporting Goods. The retailer’s offense? Using the word “holiday” rather than “Christmas” in its seasonal advertising.

It seems the AFA (www.afa.net) has been waging its own little war…er, campaign…for years against major retailers – one each year – that have dropped “Christmas” from their ads and marketing promotions, calling those merchants Christmas “haters.”

The AFA urged its members to contact Dick’s corporate offices (www.dickssportinggoods.com) to let the company’s president know of their displeasure at the company’s “disregard for Christmas,” according to a statement. Less than 24 hours after the boycott announcement, the AFA reported that Dick’s executives had telephoned AFA with “a white flag of surrender.”

As a consequence of Dick’s capitulation, AFA reported that it had called off its boycott, and the national retailer now joins a list of other companies that “have seen the Christmas light,” like Sears, Best Buy, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Target, the AFA announced about its work in recent years.

The group said it has seen the percentage of retailers recognizing Christmas in their advertising rise from 20 percent to 80 percent. This year, the group said it reviewed the top 100 national retailers’ websites, media advertising and in-store signage in an effort to help holiday shoppers know which companies are Christmas-friendly.

It has more than 10 retailers on its “Companies against Christmas” list. Among the naughty that may expect coal instead of candy in their shoes are Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, CVS Pharmacy, Gap Stores, Hancock Fabrics, NASCAR, Office Depot, Office Max, Radio Shack, Staples, SuperValu and Victoria's Secret (although “naughty” takes on a different dimension at VS).

While the National Retail Federation does not advise retailers on whether they should use the word Christmas, this year’s NRF/BigResearch survey found that 91 percent of consumers plan to celebrate Christmas, compared with 5 percent for Hanukkah and 2 percent for Kwanzaa.

"Retailers dipped their toe into the Christmas waters again last year, and there wasn't much push back. There wasn't a huge outcry from groups offended that retailers were saying ‘Merry Christmas,’" Ellen Davis, a vice president at the NRF, was reported as saying in an AdAge article.

"We see the word Christmas being used much more this year than three or four years ago,” she said. “The pendulum seems to have swung back."

She said in the article that the "extreme backlash" to generic holiday messaging likely caught retailers off guard in years past, but phrasing around the holidays is much more strategic now.

Ho, ho, ho?

--Wendy Geister


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