Drawn Agency

Why Opening on Christmas Undermines Your Brand's Value

Remember the scene from A Christmas Story where the family gathers for Christmas dinner at Chop Suey Palace? There are five staff members and four guests in the restaurant — not exactly a money maker.

Of course, not all businesses lose money by opening on Christmas Day. Earlier this week, I saw a sign at a restaurant boasting, “Open for Christmas.” They may, in fact, be able to turn a profit, but what they earn in revenue likely won’t outweigh what they lose in brand capital.

“I want to go to places where I can tell that people want to be there.” We heard numerous people make statements like this during our research this year. We intuitively know whether or not an employee likes the place where he or she works, and in turn, we appreciate businesses whose employees sincerely enjoy themselves.

Customers at any business that’s open on Christmas will logically conclude that the employees don’t want to be there; they’d rather be with family and/or friends who aren’t working. This observation diminishes patrons’ assessed value of the business.

Liberty Bottleworks, a metal water bottle manufacturer in Yakima, Washington, has the right idea. A couple of years ago, a disgruntled customer called, emailed, and posted on Facebook to file her complaint that Liberty wasn’t open for business over the Christmas holiday. Here’s an excerpt of CEO Ryan Clark’s written response:

“We did receive your numerous voicemails and emails. The buck stops with me. This will, I am sure, upset you … my customer service team will not be helping you on the weekends. Your voicemail stated, ‘It is the holidays, you should be working,’ and your email stated, ‘Instead of doing my Christmas cards and enjoying the holiday spirit I was dealing with this.’ Perhaps you need to spend a bit more time embracing the holiday spirit. You see, my employees were home with their families doing their cards, baking cookies, etc. Family first, product second.”
Imagine how you’d feel if you were an employee at Liberty, how inspired and engaged you’d feel to be led by someone who’s willing to care for his employees first, even if it means losing a customer.
Short-term gain is tempting. Every business has to decide whether they’ll succumb to it or commit to doing what’s healthiest in the long term for its brand and its culture. Liberty’s decision to close over the holiday speaks to a brand that’s well-defined, committed, and strong. Clark says it all when he says, “Family first, product second.”

A company’s employees are its brand foundation. Time off over the holidays is just one way to help them feel valued. It’s worth noting that allowing employees to take holidays is ultimately the most profitable decision, as well, because it creates an environment where employees want to be.

By the way, we’re closed for Christmas. We’re in the office next Monday and Tuesday, and out for the rest of the week to be with family and friends, and to watch the Ducks take on Florida State in the Rose Bowl. We predict that it’s going to be a long flight home for the Seminoles.

— Andrew Robinson