Old habits die hard.
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“Damnit, Amanda,” my brother shouts at me across 10 feet of ultra-festive shelves of bodywash and moisturizer. “Do you want to get Grandma the Japanese Cherry Blossom or Sweet Pea? Make up your mind, we have to go.” Frozen inside the glacier of my own indecision, I stare at him blankly, unable to choose between the candle gift set or the hand-sanitizer-and-hand-lotion duo. My ability to process rational thought has completely gone, and the only thing I’m left with is one inescapable truth: It’s the holidays, and I’m back inside a Bath & Body Works.
The thing is, my family has a lot of holiday traditions. We spend the 360 or so days leading up to our holiday week talking about very particular meals and outings, and not much changes year to year. However, there is one tradition that, while ever-present, no one seems to verbally acknowledge: my annual pilgrimage to Bath & Body Works. I have a feeling that even if my family fell apart and stopped speaking to one another and all other holiday traditions were lost in time, I’d still somehow manage to make my way into those hallowed gingham walls and purchase a gift set with a plush Santa Claus attached.
As I mentally prepare for The Visit 2017, I’ve found myself wondering why it is that, out of all other stores in my hometown’s local shopping mall, the B&BW is the beacon that annually beckons to me and inevitably guides me—my very own holiday gift shopping North Star. In terms of merchandise, the numbers do represent a certain guarantee that you will find something that you want, no matter where you are. I did some background research, and according to brand representatives, there are more than 1,600 Bath & Body Works brick-and-mortar stores across the country (and some internationally, too). They sell roughly 1,420 products and—wait for it—840 of those products were brought in just for Christmas 2017 alone. This isn’t an anomaly, either: In 2016, the brand stocked its shelves with approximately 650 new products for the holiday season. And if you can’t get your shit together in time for the holidays (or completely lose your shit, like I sometimes do), the brand adds new collections to the stores every three or four weeks and roughly 200 new fragrances every. single. year.
The numbers are impressive, but I don’t think they alone have the power to keep me coming back year after year. No, with B&BW, it’s more than that. It’s the fact that they’ve been around since 1990, which means that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting for 27 years of my life—in a far-off distant time, I got to join my mom on the journey, a frustrated, time-crunched woman on an almost-always fruitful journey to obtain a last-minute gift for a coworker or friend. Now I get to be that frustrated, time-crunched woman, and Bath & Body Works is still around to set me right. I’m not the only one, either: On average, the stores see about 740,000 shoppers per day, all of us drawn by the amalgamation of smells, bright colors, and (at least at this time of year) 1,420 giftable items.
“Amanda,” my brother says through gritted teeth with the last amount of patience he can muster. “We have to get Grandma a gift. It’s time to choose.”
What he fails to realize, though, is that we’re in a Bath & Body Works—and that means I’ve already made the best choice I possibly could.
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