News / Canada

Town asks merchants not to advertise Christmas before Remembrance Day

GANDER, N.L. — Politicians in a small Newfoundland town have declared that Christmas has come too early for many retailers, and they've decided to do something about it.

Earlier this month, Gander's town council unanimously adopted a motion asking merchants to refrain from Christmas advertising until after Remembrance Day.

Since the council doesn't have the jurisdiction to restrain the seasonal impulses of businesses, the local politicians decided to write to Premier Dwight Ball and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to request their support for the measure.

A spokeswoman in the premier's office said Ball had yet to hear from the town council.

Bill Maxwell, a spokesman for the Royal Canadian Legion in Ottawa, said issues surrounding Remembrance Day are sensitive and complex.

"It's a conundrum for a lot of people," he said.

The Legion does not offer rules dealing with how merchants should conduct themselves in the days leading up to Nov. 11, said Maxwell, secretary of the poppy and remembrance committee with Dominion Command.

However, Maxwell stressed that the key date is Remembrance Day itself.

"It's not the eighth, it's not the ninth, it's how November 11th is handled," he said in an interview.

"November 11th is the collective commemoration of the sacrifice of the 117,000 Canadians who gave their lives to preserve the freedoms we have today. If you walk into a store on November 11th and the Christmas music is blaring, that's probably ... the total opposite of good taste."

In 2015, a survey of 500 Canadians found 78 per cent thought Christmas decorations shouldn't go up until after Remembrance Day. The poll, conducted for Sensors Quality Management, also found that more than half of those surveyed thought stores should wait until December.

Jeffery Abbott, manager of the Abbott and Collins fashion and home decor store at the Gander Mall, said virtually all of the mall's merchants did not display any Christmas decorations or advertising before Nov. 11.

"That way, we respected the community," he said, referring to Gander's status as home to the military's 103 Search and Rescue Squadron.

"We wanted to put our Christmas decorations out beforehand because the sooner it's out, the sooner you can sell — especially when you're an independent ... (However), with the escapade of all the decorations, it does take away from the realization that (Remembrance Day) is there. It steals the spotlight."

Even though most mall merchants appear to share that view, the glaring exception is the dollar store, which typically hauls out its Christmas merchandise immediately after Halloween, Abbott said.

Other merchants at the mall deferred all questions to their corporate head offices.

The City of Toronto faced criticism in early November when it erected a Christmas tree outside city hall, according to a published report.

In early November 2012, Shoppers Drug Mart stopped playing Christmas music following a deluge of customer complaints.  And in August 2015, a Costco outlet in Windsor, Ont., was accused of "seasonal creep" when it started selling artificial Christmas trees before summer was over.

In February 2015, the municipal council in Orangeville, Ont., banned the display of Christmas lights along the town's main street until Nov. 12.

"There should be no discussion on this whatsoever," Coun. Don Kidd told the Orangeville Banner. "On November 11th, leave the Christmas lights off. Pull the plug."

The Town of Gander's Christmas tree lighting was scheduled for Wednesday night.

— By Michael MacDonald in Halifax.