Merry Christmas Mr Harvey

Posted Wednesday December 15, 2010 by John Gunders in |

Nearly Christmas, and that means one thing: being blitzed by desperate retailers trying to maximise profits. Shopping centres have been full of “Christmas Spirit” (that is tacky tinsel decorations and irrelevant carols) for weeks, and forests-worth of paper in the form of catalogues of useless junk are flooding my mailbox on a daily basis.

OK, maybe a bit of “bah humbug” on my part, but every year thousands of families get into financial difficulty because they cannot resist the avalanche of guilt-inducing advertising that implies that they are bad parents if they don’t buy little Johnny the latest electronic gadget that will be broken by New Year.

Organisations like Lifeline have to deal with the fallout of these sorts of issues, and regularly issue press-releases urging caution:

Lifeline Community Care Financial Counsellor Robyn Underwood said the spending frenzy over the holiday season may put some people, without realising it, into a precarious financial position.

“Overspending during the festive season may lead to financial pressures that can have an overflow affect on relationships and may create family conflict – all the things individuals and families want to actually avoid during what’s meant to be a joyful and relaxing period,” said Ms Underwood.

Lifeline urges Queenslanders to spend wisely over the holiday season (Lifeline Queensland)

Did you see that on the evening news? No, neither did I.

What isn’t too hard to find is the opposite view: that retailers are struggling with the economy and need a “good” xmas trading period to improve the bottom line:

Disappointing retail trade figures show that consumer activity is still sluggish and suggest that further interest rate rises will not be imminent, economists say.

Weak retail data ‘disappointing’: market (Sydney Morning Herald)

Stupid sluggish consumers!

Do you think we’re going to find a media organisation that suggests that a slow retail period over Christmas might be a good thing? Not bloody likely!

Well, we’ve nearly finished our Christmas shopping, and most of it came from Oxfam Unwrapped or Uniting World. I’m not trying to be smug or judgmental, but it increasingly seems to me that buying expensive gifts for wealthy, middle-class westerners, when 16% of the world’s population doesn’t even have access to clean water, is obscene.

If Gerry Harvey’s December profits are down this year, I personally will be celebrating. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to be likely…

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