Retail: Zeno’s Paradox and Christmas Shopping

There was a segment on CNBC moments ago citing some ICSC/UBS data that purportedly showed most consumers had something like 21% of their Christmas shopping done, down from 25% last year.

The factoid stopped me cold. How do we know that sort of thing? Surveying people? Who? How do they know? Do people really have that granular an idea of how much they have left to do? I know I don’t, and anyone who says they do is not to be trusted.

Matter of fact, I think it plays out like this. Most of us go through four stages of Christmas shopping:

  1. Not started
  2. About one-quarter done
  3. Almost done, and
  4. Too late.

It’s sort of like Zeno’s paradox: There is always more to do and you feel like you’re never going to get finished, and then, whammo, you slam into the finish line.