Holy mistletoe! Have you been so busy fighting crime, that you forgot to start shopping for Christmas?
Well, no sweat, because you’ve got time! I mean, we have four weeks…which will go much faster than we ever think. Happens every year!
Welcome to the post-Thanksgiving world of Christmas shopping, where door buster deals and insane operating hours are the norm! It seems standard today, but even in the 1980s, there was such a thing as Black Friday shopping, even if it didn’t involve people trampling each other for $200 flatscreen TVs and video game consoles.
I mean, we could never carry those giant tube TVs out of the store without a ton of effort, could we?
Today’s commercial comes to us from 1986, and for the discount department store Zayre. Zayre was previously featured as my Throwback Thursday Thanksgiving commercial for last year, to promote the chain’s 64 hour non-stop Thanksgiving sales. The 1986 ad campaign uses the song “Rock Around the Clock” to promote the chain’s extended holiday shopping hours, featuring people from all walks of life in need of convenient shopping hours, when they can “Shop Around the Clock.”
Including a certain Caped Crusader and his Boy Wonder.
Just run with me on this.
You’re gonna love it!
Zayre was a discount department store chain, operating in the eastern half of the United States. Based in Framingham, Massachusetts, Zayre (a play on Zehr Gut – a Jewish phrase meaning “Very Good”), operated as New England Trading Company beginning in 1919 by brothers Max and Morris Feldberg. The company’s first retail operation, Bell Hosiery Shops, opened in 1929. The buyout of Nugents in 1946 effectively moved the company into the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Washington D.C. region.
By the 1950s, with sales levelling off, Feldberg cousins Stanley and Summer (sons of Max and Morris, respectively), explored the company’s options, moving into “mill” store-style business. The first Zayre opened in Hyannis, Massachusetts in June 1956, alongside Stop and Shop, and that store gradually grew in size over its lifespan.
The company continued to grow and adopt up-and-coming trends, with their move into warehouse retail (BJ’s Wholesale Club, and off-price specialty stores (Hit or Miss, TJ Maxx). By the late 1980s, however, fortunes began to change for Zayre. While TJ Maxx thrived, Zayre stores operated at a net loss of $69 million, with observers blaming technological inferiority, poor maintenance, inappropriate pricing, and inventory pileups. By October 1988, the company decided to focus its energies on TJ Maxx, selling the entire chain of nearly 400 Zayre stores to Ames Department Stores, Inc.. In 1989, their warehouse club concept was sold off, and by April 1990, Ames Department Stores Inc. went into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection, effectively ending Zayre’s run as a discount department store chain.
By the time Zayre closed, it has been in competition with a growing discount market (Bradlees was in the same category), and was the fifth-largest discount retailer at the time of its closure. Two of its banners, BJ’s Wholesale Club and TJ Maxx, continue to operate today.
I’ve heard of Zayre, and remember seeing commercials for them growing up, but I don’t recall any being local to the area I grew up in. Bradlees was a big deal in our area, and was the Target of its time (until Target began moving into the area). It was always a step above KMart and Wal-Mart, and I’m sure Wal-Mart expanding out of the southern states didn’t help Zayre, or even Ames, remain competitive.
If you’ve heard of Ames, you know their story.
I love this commercial.
I found it floating around in my digital files, and knew this would be a fun way to kick off a month of Christmas commercials on Allison’s Written Words. It doesn’t target Black Friday shopping specifically, but for this specific holiday season, Zayre was operating 24 hours a day until Christmas (for the convenience of all good citizens). This isn’t a new or novel concept these days, but in 1986, I’m betting this was a big deal, and definitely a source of convenience for those who needed those late night shopping hours, or last minute shopping opportunities.
Heck, even superheroes need it!
I love the fact that these guys are trying so hard to be Adam West and Burt Ward. this was post-Batman ’66, pre-Batman film franchise. It captures all that nice 1960s camp and throws it all over 1986 like confetti! “Robin” is a bit hammy and overacted, but I don’t really expect anything less. But “Batman” really sounds like Adam West.
And with Zayre’s convenient shopping hours and great prices, Batman even found something for that “Pesky Prankster, The Penguin.”
Remember the Christmas spirit, like Robin now does.
Have a fantastic Flashback Friday, and a great weekend!