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The Economies of Christmas

21 December 2011

Hi All – I thought I would get my last blog in before leaving for the holiday season.  I was thinking over the past week what the true meaning of Christmas was about and whether or not that has been lost in the commercialism of it all?

I’ve deliberately used the “Christmas” in the title as I know it has been subject to controversy due to its religious aspects.  In the United States there has been a tendency to replace the greeting “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays”.

I’d like to take note, Broadgate as an organisation is not influenced by religion of any kind (however there is a Christmas tree in the office, but I’m not sure why) – we work by our morales and integrity.

Anyway back to the economics of Christmas.  Typically this season is the largest annual economic stimulus for many countries around the globe.  There is no doubt there will be sales spike in all retail areas  as shops introduce new products and we purchase decorations and supplies.

It is expected that shoppers in the United Kingdom will collectively spend £46.9 billion in December alone and a total of £18.3 billion in cash is expected to be withdrawn from cash machines.  Perhaps they are planning to buy a mince pie worth £3000 (no its real!) – The pie has some very expensive ingredients including a platinum coin, platinum leaf and holy water from Lourdes.

Shockingly, even though people have faced debt due to the downturn, almost half are not planning to cut back on spending on gifts this year.

In December 2010 found that almost 90% of under 18’s would be happy to receive fewer presents to help ease financial concerns for their family (thats nice!). 5 million people increased their debt in 2009 to buy Christmas presents. In 2010 the average child is due to receive 6 presents from their family although others may receive up to 14 gifts from their family.

So lets look at the reality of this all –

An online poll of 116 people by the mental health charity Mind found that respondents were stressed and anxious about repaying their Christmas spending. Here is a summary of the survey’s findings:

  • 19% of people felt less able to manage their mental health because of worries about paying off the cost of Christmas
  •  25% were feeling depressed
  • 20% will have problems meeting their rent or mortgage payments this month.
  • Over 50% admitted they had spent more than they could afford on Christmas.
  • 39% used credit cards to cover the cost of Christmas.
  • 33% estimated that it would take them more than six months to pay off their Christmas spending debt
The question on my mind is why do people do this? – Ok, Christmas is time for giving and receiving but I think we sometimes take the literal meaning.  Why not give a kind word instead of materialistic gifts? And kindness shouldn’t just happen over Christmas it should be all year – right?
Isn’t Christmas a deadweight loss due to the effect of gift giving? (deadweight loss – thats the difference between what the gift giver spent on the item and what the gift receiver would have paid for the item.)
I guess you’ve started to get a sense I’m not into christmas, as I get older I start to realise gifts are white elephants just adding to the clutter and environment.
My opinion – if you have the money invest it first and spend whats left over, if you don’t, but feel obligated to buying gifts – buy it in the January sales!
My family know they won’t be getting any gifts from me! – I’m not a grinch just a realist.  What ever you decide, do it with kindess and compassion.
With that in mind – Have a fantastic Christmas and a Happy New Year.
P/s I’m listening to christmas music as I write this blog.
Any questions, comments or feedback I would greatly appreciate – consider it your “gift” to me.
Simon Osborne
Chief Brand Officer
simonosborne@broadgatefinancial.com