By Jane Meijall
Special to the Chronicle
I suffered through hearing my first Christmas song of the year on Nov. 1. Mariah Carey’s synthesized voice blared out from my car speaker, urging me to believe that all she wanted for Christmas was me, though in fact it was probably just the royalty check she would be getting at my expense. Soon, my eyes were also assaulted by Christmas displays in malls and stores, a faint whiff of gingerbread in my morning latte and insistent bell ringers on every street corner. I still wasn’t over Halloween and Thanksgiving was far on the horizon, yet to corporate America it was already the Christmas shopping season.
It seems every year Christmas cheer comes a little earlier and earlier, culminating in a Black Friday frenzy at the end of November. Although the National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that 54 percent of consumers start researching holiday purchases in October or before, 71 percent of Americans in a CNBC poll state they are “annoyed” or “very annoyed” when retailers put up their Christmas displays before November. This marketing plan is merely to extend the holiday shopping season, thus extending the large profit margins that come behind Santa’s sleigh. During Black Friday alone, where salespeople at top retailers risk life and limb to accommodate a crowd in a holiday frenzy, U.S. retailers profited a record $7.9 billion, according to Adobe Analytics. This is not including the $6.6 billion that Cyber Monday brought in, as holiday shopping moves increasingly online. However, what used to be day of great deals and finds has become an entire week as stores try to get ahead of each other by offering deals earlier and earlier. Even while many assert that their merchandise is at the lowest point at the year, there has been statistics showing that retailers mark up the price earlier in the month, just to drop it down on Black Friday. In fact, you can use price-tracking firms like Wikibuy and Camelcamelcamel to see how Amazon and other, larger retailers misrepresent their price drops and sales.
Even with larger and larger profit margins, Americans are still expected to pay more for Christmas this year. In fact, the NRF also reports that Americans are expected to spend around $967 on their Christmas shopping list, which is up 3 percent from last year due to a healthy economy and buying mindset of Americans. However, the problem of the cheapening of Christmas – the commercialization of the holiday and the in-your-face marketing approach has turned me against my favorite holiday. Now, instead of giddily anticipating the night ole Saint Nick shimmies down my chimney and leaves me the perfect gift, I am continuously harried by the constant reminder that I haven’t done my holiday shopping yet. Just walking into a mall makes me feel guilty that I haven’t bought a gift for each one of my extended family. I have become cynical to every wreath I see on my neighbors’ door and every parking lot forested by frosted Christmas trees, in fact, I might not even buy one this year – Christmas has become less about the people that matter and more about how you shop for them.
I am not the first one to make this complaint and I probably won’t be the last. Christmas has become as cheap as the new sweater you bought at Macy’s for your least favorite cousin. You can sell it, you can commercialize it and you can shove it down the gaping throat of consumerism. While some can’t seem to get enough, I have. As I attempt to find a station that doesn’t play a sickeningly sweet rendition of “White Christmas,” I can only hope that this continuous retail assault on Christmas will abate and that the greatest time of year will have some meaning again.
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