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Monday, 16 October 2017

Are We Overexposed To Christmas?

Unless you have impaired vision or have been walking around with your eyes closed, you may have noticed that many shops on the high streets of Britain have been taken over by their Christmas stock. I mean, of course they have, it's October. The big day is only a little over two months away.

Two months. Do we really need that long to prepare for one day? After all, it appears that's what the retailers want you to think. In fact, some businesses suggest that you need even longer. The earliest sightings of Christmas can usually be seen before the Summer is even over, with card shops stocking their racks with Christmas cards and gift wrap in August and tubs of Quality Street and Roses hitting the shelves in supermarkets before the kids are back at school.

I'm 28 years old, so any Christmas shopping that took place before 2004 is a very vague memory to me, but there's something in the back of my mind that suggests perhaps Christmas advertisements weren't released quite so early when I was a wee nipper. And of course, my parents confirm to me all the time nobody partook in Christmas shopping before December back in the 70's and 80's. As they recall, shopping for present often didn't happen until roughly two weeks before Christmas Day, a concept that now seems so strange to many of my generation.

So why is Christmas shoved down our throats for months on end now? Let's not beat around the bush, it's all about retailers maximising profits. They'd probably even tell you that themselves. They'd also tell you that there is customer demand for Christmas product as soon as it hits the shelves. And they wouldn't be lying either, I've worked in retail long enough to know that it's true.

But do consumers only buy it because it's there? If retailers hadn't brought their Christmas marketing launch dates forward as much as they have over the past 20 years, would people really be walking into shops in late September asking why they haven't started selling festive decorations yet? Obviously I don't know the answer personally, as I already said I don't really remember what shopping habits were like before the 21st century, but I have a feeling we as the consumer have been trained to expect Christmas goods to be in store by a certain time of year.

And it's not entirely on the retailers. We, as the consumer, don't HAVE to buy things just because it's there. Despite all the advertising, despite the visual merchandising, despite the Christmas songs playing in store by mid November, it's still a choice as to whether we buy it or not. Some people stick to their guns and won't start shopping until December. Some people give in and buy decorations and presents and mince pies in October. And who are we to stop them? We can't make people's choices for them.

My main concern is how this has changed how Christmas feels. Regardless of whether you believe in the Nativity story or you think it's a load of tosh, Christmas always used to carry a special feeling for me. It definitely doesn't feel like that anymore. There are two potential reasons for this: is it because I've worked in the retail sector for the past ten years, therefore having Christmas shoved down my throat everyday for the last four months of each of those ten years? Or is it simply because I'm an adult now, and I've started noticing things that I didn't notice at age 18? Unless I manage to get myself out of retail (someone help me PLEASE) I supposed I won't find out.

What are your thoughts on Christmas consumerism? Is an early start a good thing or a bad thing?

Stacey Rose xx

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