The last of the monkey nuts haven’t even started to dry out yet and already shop windows are starting to tinkle with the glow of fairy lights. I couldn’t believe my eyes recently when I spotted the tins of Roses piling up in a local supermarket. And I had to look again when I saw three people in the queue ahead of me with wrapping paper and other Christmas paraphernalia in their baskets. Then I heard that Dublin’s Christmas lights are to be turned on this weekend – almost three weeks earlier than last year – in a bid to boost retailers’ figures. Any day now we’ll be hearing Wham and Cliff Richard classics blasting from the airwaves.
Between the recession and the recent budget, it’s hardly a cheerful time so maybe we need a dose of the Christmas jollies to liven us up. However I’m sure parents already feeling the pinch are dreading the frenzied consumerism that the coming weeks will bring. Is it just me, or does the sight of that first miniature Santa automatically fill you with a sense of panic, an overwhelming dread that you’re not organised enough, that you ‘have nothing done’? Or are you amongst the cool and collected minority who made our list and checked it twice back in July?
When it comes to the dreaded/ loved (delete as you see fit) Christmas shopping, I’ve begun to wonder is it one of those ‘who came first, the chicken or the egg’ situations. What I mean is, are we, the consumers, bring the Christmas season forward more and more every year in our drive to be organised or are retailers creating a hype and sense of panic amongst us by ‘decking the halls with boughs of holly’ before we’ve taken our Halloween costume off?
Surely it can’t be this bad elsewhere in the world. Though larger stores such as Walmart and Toys “R” Us in the US launch their own marketing campaigns earlier, retailers in the US wait until ‘Black Friday’ – the day after Thanksgiving to kickstart the holiday shopping extravaganza. So what has us so hyped up? Maybe we’re hoping to get all that shopping out of the way so we can enjoy the Christmas nights out in peace. After all, I doubt other nations go on the two-week bender that tends to happen in this country.
According to the Small Firms Association we as a nation spend well over €4 billion on Christmas, including in excess of €23 million an hour on Christmas Eve (can’t you just hear that ching ching). Shocking as they seem, those figures hardly suggest we’re all getting our shopping done early in the season.
Retailers say they’re turning on the lights because the shoppers are already out en masse and they don’t want to leave things until the last minute. On that score I’d tend to agree- you’d want to be ever so slightly masochistic to leave your present-buying to Christmas week, when you’d need to be armed with a hurley and prepared to use it to get around city centre shops. Nor do I fancy the prospect of empty shelves and greeting my nearest and dearest on Christmas morning with the ‘pot luck’ pressies that you salvaged. Then there are the benefits of spreading the cost out over several weeks (leaving you with a few bob to spend on that Little Black Dress for the office party).
So you have to ask yourself: Are we, the consumers, going to revolt against this early arrival of the festive season? No. Will it get people in a holiday mood? No, if anything it puts many of us in a foul mood.
But everyone is as disgusted as they seem with this marketing ploy, surely it’s up to us to put the brakes on?