Customs: The Great Divide

  • Share
  • Read Later

In 1894 President Grover Cleveland designated Labor Day, the first Monday in September, as a legal holiday. But while the day still honors the U.S. workingman, it has evolved over the years into a much more significant date in the life of the American consumer. No seasonal divide so sharply separates the living and buying patterns of men, women and children across the land. Summer is over, no matter what the calendar says, and change reaches deep into the nation's habits, mood and marketplace.

Before Labor Day is a time of fun in the sun in cool cottons and top-down convertibles, of air-conditioned havens in the city or breeze-cooled retreats in the country, of long weekends and skeleton staffs, of foaming beer, dripping ice cream, and dads in funny aprons presiding over barbecues. After Labor Day means back to work, back to school, back to the kitchen.

And as the hunting season opens, the high point of another hunting season is ending: 3,893,521 girls who did not get themselves engaged during the past three months now must begin adjusting their thinking to 1963.

More Stews. Most other adjustments of the season are not so painful. The lady of the house takes over in earnest again on the family range. After a summer of salads, barbecue meats and cold cuts, supermarkets suddenly begin to sell more potatoes, carrots, turnips and stew meats, while small steaks tend to give way in popularity to roasts, ribs and the heavier cuts of meats. Tea slumps, and coffee, cocoa, soups and chili rise. Candy sales —both low-calorie and weight-increasing —jump about 40% in the fall. At the same time, down goes the lowly frankfurter; after Labor Day First National Stores, a chain of supermarkets in New England, New York and New Jersey, sell 50% fewer frankfurters and 65% fewer hot dog rolls.

The liquor industry hails the change of season as the time when people begin to think about restocking their bars, perhaps stimulated by more formal fall entertaining. People switch from gin to whisky.

Wine's popularity increases slightly; the continental airs and graces acquired by summer travelers abroad hike the sales of liqueurs.

Worn-Out Carpets. At the first hint of the shortening day, light bulb sales zoom —even before the bulbs are really needed.

With the onset of cooler weather and a new season, television sets reach their biggest sales; the last four months of the year account for 42% of U.S. yearly sales of TV sets by distributor to retailer.

People begin buying furnishings of all kinds for their houses. "They move back inside the house and start noticing their beat-up lamps and worn-out carpets," says a department store executive in Dallas. "And as people start entertaining more, china and silverware start selling better." The return to school is one of the most potent factors at the turn of the season.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2