Christmas is everywhere at this time of year.  And while many of us try to be more inclusive by saying “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays,” few stores carry much merchandise for Hanukkah.  There are of course good reasons for this – Hanukkah is not a major holiday in the Jewish year, and some areas don’t have a large potential market for Hanukkah gifts.  A friend of mine recently complained to the manager of our local Target store that they had very little shelf space devoted to Hanukkah merchandise, and his response was “That is what corporate sent us.”

I’m sure that the upper levels of management at Target used a formula based on the percentage of our community that is Jewish, and decided that a limited number of SKUs would suffice.  After all, there are only 10,000 Jews in Madison, Wisconsin – including those who are students at UW.  But we should acknowledge that representation matters. For those in our area who celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas, it is meaningful to see their religious/ethnic background reflected in the inventory of the stores they frequent.

Not everyone needs to carry menorahs and dreidels, of course. But a display of gifts in Hanukkah wrap, and perhaps a  few items specific to the holiday, can go a long way towards acknowledging the religious diversity in your community. 

You’ll notice that I am not suggesting carrying Kwanzaa merchandise for this annual celebration of African-American culture from December 26 to January 1. The fourth day of Kwanzaa focuses on Ujamaa, the Swahili word for cooperative economics. Many people feel that this is a good opportunity to support black-owned businesses, so it seems best to encourage shoppers to patronize black-owned stores for Kwanzaa items such as the kinara candle holder and candles.

Catherine Erdly wrote for Forbes that “Representation in the products that retailers stock is not only long overdue, but creates a strong emotional response in customers.” While she was referring to the importance of racial diversity in merchandise, it’s easy to see how this sentiment can also be applied to Hanukkah. Having some representation of this Jewish holiday amid December’s overwhelming Christmas displays is a reminder that in your store, customers of all religions are welcome. 

Happy retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder