Modern equivalents like Wal-Mart ( WMT) and Target ( TGT) realize this all too well, which is why their online war for holiday book and DVD sales began just as most consumers were putting their shorts and swimsuits into storage.

While Macy's hangs on to the old-school gimmickry, it would behoove it and its traditional department store colleagues like JCPenney ( JCP) to make a bit more of an online effort. With ComScore ( SCOR) reporting that online spending for the first 36 days of the November-December holiday shopping season hit 16 billion, the ho-ho-ho's Macy's is hearing aren't from Santa, but from competitors watching Macy's neglect its slowly growing Web presence.

4. The legal department: Kids are making their wish lists, parents are deciding where to spend their ample discretionary income and it's just after the war when no one has any money and debt accounts for almost 110% of gross domestic product -- what better time to put Santa on trial?

That this happens in Miracle on 34th Street despite R.H. Macy's disapproval turns the incident into an executive nightmare -- litigation nobody wants at the time companies least want it. Given the number of legal pitfalls inherent in the holiday season -- boozy holiday parties, end-of-year bonuses, office gifts -- a good legal department can keep a company's seasonal windfall from becoming a lump of coal. Ask both the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the folks in New York's City Hall if either felt like big winners during the 2005 strike that shut down city transportation just days before Christmas.

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