Greeting Your Customer: Should You Say Merry Christmas in Your Retail Store?
By Bob Phibbs
Retailers, it's the most wonderful time of the year. Or at least it should be...so why is there a debate on whether retailers should say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays?
Can you imagine making everyone say Merry Christmas?
How about this readerboard?
Now before you think that I’m out to decry your values, you should know I’m a PK; a preacher’s kid. In fact, I come from a long line of preachers...
I sat through my own dad’s sermons, sang in the choirs, and learned all the verses to most every Christmas carol in the hymnal. I love the Christmas holiday.
If you are a devout Christian, I understand. To you there is no other greeting more necessary than, Merry Christmas – Christ is your reason for the season. And if you are someone around my age, you’ve probably grown up always saying, Merry Christmas – why would you change now?
In fact, seventy-five percent of all Americans call themselves Christians.
So most likely if you say, Merry Christmas only one in four might take any offense.
But does that make it the right thing to do in your retail business?
No, I don't think so.
I conducted my own chorus for about a dozen years and when the holiday concert came round, I was careful to include as many different types of songs as possible. I didn’t get rid of Christmas songs all together, but I did add in winter solstice songs, Chanukah songs and Kwanza songs; inclusive songs that brought people together. Every year I welcomed the audience by saying, “Welcome home for the holidays” It was an inclusive greeting chosen to welcome everyone. And every year our audience grew larger.
I think every retailer wants all their customers to feel welcome every time they walk into their store.
And that’s why I believe greeting customers with Merry Christmas 100% of the time is wrong because it excludes 25% of them.
You want to cater to every customer, those who will buy their presents with cash and those who pay credit, those who can afford the best and those who cannot, those who celebrate Christmas and those who do not.
They’re all purple and their money’s green.
And how should you respond if someone wishes you a Happy Holiday or Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah?
It’s important your retail sales training instructs employees to greet everyone with Happy Holidays. It’s not that you never can say, Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanza, just wait until the customer has offered you a clue to what they celebrate.
To build holiday retail sales you want to build as wide an audience as possible wherever you hold shop.
With the first night of Chanukah occuring the same Saturday as Christmas Eve this year I say, Happy Holidays is still the best greeting for your retail store employees to welcome all customers into your store.
Of course, if you choose to do other, that's your personal choice.
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