As Hanukkah is lost in the holiday retail run


Hanukkah decorations and gifts adorn the Avital Barnea apartment in Washington. (Mary Mathis / For the Washington Post)

When she left Montana for a college in Minneapolis a decade ago, Avital Barnea knew she would join a larger Jewish community of the 30 families who supported her synagogue in Billings' hometown. He also hoped that once Hanukkah returned, he would have the opportunity to purchase party decorations and gifts that went beyond the cards and the menorahs sold in the small souvenir shop of his temple.

At a target near the University of Minnesota, he asked where he could find Hanukkah cards and wrapping paper. Nobody knew it.

"They were taking me around the store, saying," Maybe it's here, maybe it's there ", said Barnea. "They could not find it."

As it turned out, only one target in the Twin Cities area carried an inventory of Hanukkah. So Barnea opted for a generic card – "Happy New Year" or something – he said – and gave up.

Tradition teaches that more than 2,000 years ago the Jews celebrated the victory over a cruel king and the rededication of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem. The story tells that a small amount of oil, used to illuminate the temple's menorah, miraculously burned for eight days.

But many Americans who buy Hanukkah goods every year find it difficult to find enough junk to last only one.

This is especially true for Jews who do not live near stores that sell Jewish ceremonial art, also known as Jewish, and which rely on major retailers or online stores for such items.

Before Halloween is over, most of the sales spaces are at the center of the Christmas decor that feeds a multi-billion dollar market every year. Yet many stores keep only a few shelves of Hanukkah products: a splash of blue and white inventory in a sea of ​​red and green. According to Adobe Analytics, looking at the items purchased between November 1 and December 6 that had either "Christmas" or "Hanukkah" in their name, Hanukkah's objects constituted about 1% of those purchases.

In addition, Hanukkah goods are usually sold in tandem with the Christmas period, although Hanukkah dates change every year and can begin as early as November. (This year, Hanukkah began the evening of December 2nd and ends the night of December 10th).

Analysts and retail shoppers have their own theories: retailers know they will not see huge profits from Hanukkah sales, so they have little incentive to make a series of options. In the United States, merchants usually debut all holiday products at the same time. The Jewish population in America is also more geographically widespread than in past decades, making it more difficult for stores to concentrate inventory in specific neighborhoods.


Avital Barnea turns on the menorah during a Hanukkah party with friends. (Mary Mathis / For the Washington Post)

But there are signs of progress. This year marks the first time that Target has supplied Hanukkah's goods in all of its 1,850 locations across the country. The company analyzes sales data and gathers input from store managers and buyers to identify inventory that might work best in each store, Target spokesman Joshua Thomas said.

However, Hanukkah still confuses the retail industry. Rabbi Chaim Mahgel-Friedman, co-owner of the Judaica Afikomen store in Berkeley, Calif., Said that buyers of supermarkets, drugstores and grocery stores often "miss the target" by placing Hanukkah orders too late in the season.

"They did not order the gelt in time for Hanukkah, and it's like," Oh god, we're lost! Is not it always around Christmas? "Said Mahgel-Friedman referring to the chocolate coins given to Jewish children during the festival. "This year, it's definitely not around Christmas, it's a line of objects that is not at the front of many people's consciences."

Barnea, for example, said that after moving to Washington in 2011, she was thrilled to find the Hanukkah cards she liked in a papyrus – but found them only after the holidays were over.

One morning in late November, options were scarce in stores across the district. At a Michaels, a journalist asked if the shop sold Hanukkah decorations. A confused employee responded with: "Who?"

Another employee intervened: "It's just a tape.

Thus began a walking tour through Michaels' Christmas inventory – beyond the glittering trees and lights, plus a Santa figurine holding a surfboard, plus a life-size nutcracker. The employees decided that a series of ribbons, decorated with blue and silver snowflakes, were "inspired by Hanukkah". Meanwhile, a Christmas carol rang through the loudspeaker on the head: "And put a smile on someone's face / 'because it's Christmas every day. "

A spokesman for Michaels said that about 40 percent of the approximately 1,110 stores in the company carry Hanukkah's inventory. The seasonal assortment is introduced in mid-October. Many stores that sell Hanukkah products have already been sold for most or all of their stock by November, the company said.


This year marks the first time that Target has supplied Hanukkah's goods in all of its 1,850 locations across the country. Traditional big-box stores usually devote most of their space for Christmas items to Christmas items. (Julio Cortez / AP)

At a CVS from the other side of the city, there were no Hanukkah items in a hallway of discounted Halloween candy, gingerbread houses built by you and "I Love My Chihuahua" ornaments. One employee said it would be another week before he knew if the shop would receive any Hanukkah inventory.

A CVS spokesperson said that stores complement their assortment based on sales and that customers can talk to product order managers.

A target on the other side of the street had a modest Hanukkah section, occupying about a quarter of a corridor, as well as a separate display of cards and wrapping paper. There were some menorahs, candles and table decorations. Those were placed next to non-festive items: kitchen towels decorated with David's stars, an inflatable balloon banner that wrote "The Chaim" and an apron that said "Schmutz".

At Bed Bath & Beyond, one employee admitted that Hanukkah products were limited to "a small section". However, the store supplied some types of menorahs, candles and dreidels, as well as wall decorations, a latke server and a Hanukkah pasta shape. In addition to menorahs, dreidels and candles, a Walmart in Washington sold Hanukkah biscuits, stuffed animals, a menorah-shaped band and a bib that said, "My first Hanukkah!"

But almost everything that inventory was diminished by Christmas objects. For example, at Target, most of the back wall of the store had been transformed into a Christmas wonderland, complete with trees, illuminated reindeer and $ 3 buckets of ornaments.

The retail experts say that there is a paradox for the Hanukkah inventory that is amassed along with Christmas products.

Alana Berman-Gnivecki, a gallerist at the Kolbo Fine Judaica Gallery in Brookline, Massachusetts, said her store earns more from Passover sales because the holiday involves more ritual items. Kolbo opened in 1978 and made inventory of Hanukkah all year, said Berman-Gnivecki, with an additional boost in November and December.

"I think big box stores, and only America in general, make a big deal on Hanukkah because of its proximity to Christmas," said Berman-Gnivecki. "I think it's a misunderstanding of what our important holidays are."

Marshal Cohen, consumer behavior expert at the NPD Group, said retailers see more of a boost from Hanukkah sales when the holiday falls later in the season.

"When it's around Christmas, it's always a bigger and better holiday because of traffic, impulse and frenzy," he said.

Berman-Gnivecki and Mahgel-Friedman said that buyers do not buy the same online shopping experience as if they had gone to a Judaica store. But since many communities do not have Judaica stores, going online is often the only option. Barnea said that Amazon is his go-to. Stores like Target, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and Michaels have more extensive Hanukkah sections on their websites.

Barbara Tellerman, a radiologist from Columbia, Maryland, said she does almost all her online shopping on Hanukkah due to the lack of options in the city. It has a list of websites, from Modern Tribe to Traditions Jewish Gifts to the Kosher Kingdom, which caters to ritual objects and foods throughout the year. When visiting families and friends in big cities, Tellerman said he is always excited to see what their Judaica stores offer.

"People take it for granted that they can get in and get what they need," he said.

This year, Tellerman claimed to rely on online shopping.

However, he said he knows he can always run towards Target or Walgreens, just in case.

"If you're really in a pinch," Tellerman said, "you can always get a box of candles."

Read more:

It's no longer Black Friday. They are weeks of discounts. And you can not stop. Shopping.

Welcome to the first holiday season without Toys R Us

Toys R Us gets back to crawl, just in time for the holidays

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