Jayne Dowle: Why must we shop until the pine needles drop?

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DID you get up at the crack of dawn today to start queuing for discounted stock in the shops? Were you online yesterday and desperately clicking away as soon as Christmas dinner was over? Have you spent the last few weeks since Black Friday stressing because you may have missed out on the bargain of the century? Did Cyber Monday send you into consumer meltdown? Are you already gearing up for the big New Year “event” which has nothing to do with raising a toast to everyone you care about and everything to do with spending yet more money?

If you can answer yes to any, or all, of the above, then you have fallen victim to the greatest consumer scourge of our times – the sales. No one likes a bargain more than me, but I have shut down on sales shopping in the interests of sanity and my credit card bill. I refuse to bow to the hype any longer. We might save a few pounds, but the retailers profit from our greed. I don’t want to sound like Scrooge, but I suggest you do the same. Do you really want to spend what’s left of your Christmas holiday beating yourself up because you failed to grab that bargain toaster or super-discounted mobile phone?

While you’re about it, I also suggest you switch off the television. And possibly the radio too. There is nothing more irritating than finally settling down to watch a favourite programme only to be bombarded by endless advertisements exhorting you to buy a new sofa. Who in their right mind starts purchasing furniture when the house is strewn with prone family members pigging out on chocolate reindeer?

I have never seen any retail figures which prove any kind of link between the repetitive instance of irritating TV adverts and a subsequent rise in sales and profits. I am sure more people press mute than jump immediately into the car to speed off to browse the aisles of Sofa Shed.

Anyway, if you’re preparing yourself for another consumer mission, I hate to break it to you but you are probably too late. Traditional Boxing Day sales are on their way out, experts claim. New research from retail analyst Springboard suggests this traditional day of bargain-hunting has been overshadowed by all the pre-Christmas activity.

A spokeswoman said the special nature of Boxing Day shopping is diminishing, not just because of American imports such as Black Friday, but also due to the growth of online shopping. Footfall in shops on Boxing Day fell by four per cent between 2011 and 2013 as people found themselves shopped out by the time the customary sales began. And, many just can’t wait. As soon as the wrapping’s off the Amazon voucher, they’re online and downloading the latest bestseller, film or CD.

There’s some sense in this I suppose. After all, why bother going out in the cold when you can sit at your kitchen table and tap away your money instead? The Springboard woman’s advice to worried high street retailers is to put on Boxing Day “entertainment”. She argues that families need to see a post-Christmas trip to the shops as a special event – with children’s entertainers, celebrity appearances and so on. Personally, I cannot imagine anything worse than trailing round the shopping mall with kids in tow being pestered by clowns and/or a two-bit “personality”.

Haven’t we suffered enough already, what with over-priced visits to Santa, pantomimes “starring” random has-beens from reality shows, and the frenzied madness of the festive finales of Strictly and The X Factor? The last thing we want is yet more enforced jollity involving people other than members of our immediate friends and family circle.

Have we forgotten in the rush that Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and reflection? Have we forgotten – and sorry to quote an advert here – it’s not just about the presents under the tree, but more about the people who surround it? And have we forgotten that nothing quashes your post-Christmas spirit more than a trip to the out-of-town retail outlet only to witness hordes of people attempting to return jumpers that don’t fit them? It’s just so sad. It makes the whole experience of Christmas seem as worthless and empty as the discarded wrapping off the chocolate reindeer.

If I was you then, I’d step away from the credit card and go and do something far more interesting instead today. I’ll tell you what. If you’re really are so bored, why not go upstairs and get all the stuff together you’ve bought this year because it was cheap in the sales? That breadmaker which you have never even taken out of the box. That dress which looked like such a steal, but appears less stylish with the passage of time. That Christmas tree which you found you didn’t need. In the new year, you can take it all to a car boot sale and then use your profits to find a proper bargain. That’s my retail plan for 2015. Good luck.

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