The holiday season brings warm thoughts of friends, family, traditions and DEALS to everyone – except for those people who work in retail.

For them, the holiday season means long hours, stress and constant reporting on sales numbers, inventory counts, IT updates and promotion tracking.  During the holiday rush when consumers are running from store to store looking for this year’s version of “Tickle Me Elmo,” retailers are hoping, praying and wishing that the year’s efforts are in line with consumer expectations. Sometimes they are not, as evidenced by the retail heads that roll every Q1.

Here are a few examples of the different ways in which consumers and retailers “celebrate” the holiday.

Black Friday Specials

What consumers see: Sitting in lines all night long, charging through front doors and incessantly hitting “refresh” to be the first to purchase coveted merchandise at highly discounted prices. The pure joy of finding that ultimate deal is overwhelming and exhilarating, and then just like that – the frenzy is over, the specials are gone and the stores slow down.

What retailers feel: As an event, Black Friday is a single day. But it’s a year in the making. Should we open on Thanksgiving night or not? Should we mark down 50 or 75 items? Are we trying to beat year-over-year comps by 5%, 15%, 25%?  Are we going to be able to handle peak volume on our site? Do we have the right mix of merchandise? The expectations of the entire holiday performance are set from the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday. So forget about “enjoying” the sales or time with family, for retailers this crazy, hectic stress is a way of life.

Discounts! Promotions!

What consumers see: Thousands of emails flood the inbox with incredible promotions and deals from hundreds of retailers. TV commercials are awash in dancing snowflakes, happy children, adorable puppies, loving Grannies, cars and jewelry wrapped up in a bow. And with all the noise it’s nearly impossible for consumers to remember or absorb anything but a few deals that truly mean anything to them.

What retailers feel: Tremendous pressure to rise above the deafening noise of the holiday; picking the “right” time to send a daily email blast, which products to promote, and to whom. Retailers fret that they only see their competitors’ television ads and retargeting ads, and are relentlessly haunted by the fact that free shipping is no longer a temporary promotion, but is a profit-sucking element of everyday retail.

After Christmas Return Bonanza

What consumers see: SALE SALE SALE CLEARANCE CLEARANCE CLEARANCE and very long lines at returns counters.  The few days after Christmas are once again bustling with people looking for bargains or even just celebrating the $20 store credit for returning Aunt Martha’s ugly sweater.

What retailers feel: One last burst of adrenaline to get to the finish line – an incremental 6 days in the calendar month to hit internal revenue forecasts. It’s like running the last .2 miles of a marathon, you are so close but completely drained and ready for a long massage, and convincing yourself you will never run another marathon again (but you will).

If you have any similar stories to these you would like to share please do and we will run them throughout the holiday season.  Until then, best of luck to all retailers as they enter the final stretch…enjoy all your hard work and don’t forget to celebrate.