There is one Saturday to go before Christmas and, for those of a dilatory nature, it’s time to deck the halls with holly or at least to trim the artificial tree (it’s greener that way).

In practice, this means that at least one set of Christmas tree lights will not sparkle and, despite your best attempts at replacing the fuse bulb, nothing seems to work. Out you go, therefore, to Homebase, Wilkinsons or wherever, to buy some multicoloured or clear lights, depending on how the fancy takes you.

It is a salutary lesson that those who go looking for this kind of thing early are likely to be rewarded and those who don’t are going to have a thin time of it when the relatives arrive (inevitably) to admire your tree, drink to your health and scoff your food. In fact, by last Saturday, it seemed that, unless you wanted illuminated mooning Santas or bonking reindeer, you were destined to be disappointed – everything had sold out.

Congratulations, therefore, to all the retailers that – a week and a half ahead of the big day – had managed to clear their shelves of traditional festive lights. But here’s the thing. Not only were the shelves stripped of tree lights, but nothing had been put out to take the place of the stock that had sold out. Whether it was Woolies (tried two of them) or Wilkinsons, the answer to buying the right quantity of seasonal bunting was to leave displays empty, rather than use the space that had become available.

Bear in mind this was the penultimate weekend ahead of Christmas and, by 10am, every available space in the nearby car parks had been occupied. The streets were packed, but the shelves were empty. Consider, also, the fact that this may be a busy time, but stores will never have more staff on hand to make sure that the replenishment operation is in full swing.

So, is there any excuse for this? Of course not. It boils down to relatively absent-minded local management not doing that which should come naturally – keeping things topped up when there are shoppers around. So, when the trading statements are issued in a few weeks, think about the missed opportunities.

Oh and hats off to Uniqlo for opening a store just as peak trading commences and then, a couple of weeks later, remerchandising its Oxford Street flagship’s sales floor to take advantage of potential.

Season’s greetings to you all.