The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) Christmas report has revealed an 11.6% drop in consumer spending during the six-week Christmas period in comparison to the same time period last year. Yet despite the national lockdown, Brits are on average expected to spend £1,049.01 per head this Christmas. Whilst condemnation of public spending is an unattractive proposition in the wake of a recession, such extreme spending raises questions about how much consumers are willing to spend at a time of national need.
Whilst Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are widely accredited with the introduction of the Christmas tree to British society, it was the German wife of George the 3rd, Queen Charlotte, who introduced the tradition at the Queen’s lodge Windsor in 1800. The introduction was incredibly significant as it made Christmas a private sphere celebration with family and friends as opposed to a public festivity. The grandeur of Queen Charlotte’s tree decorations encouraged others to festoon their houses and trees. According to the Retail Gazette, Brits now spend £185 on decorations per year.
The beginning of Christmas becoming a day of celebration can be traced to the early 1800s, as a softening and increased sensitivity towards family, and particularly towards children. This was epitomised by Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” which struck a chord with all classes, due to the growing importance of charity and good will around Christmas time. The Nationwide Building society found the average spending on Christmas gifts for a child was £67, whilst a quarter of the respondents to their survey said they would be spending over £100 for a child.
Social Media may have a role to play in the commercialisation of Christmas. The exuberant Christmas displays, particularly of the Kardashians who are known for their elaborate decorations, see Kylie Jenner’s 20-foot tree this year on her Instagram @kyliejenner, and Kim Kardashian West giving a Louis Vuitton bag to each family member.
A recent factor to this increase may be the rise of the online shop. The Bank of England quotes that the value of online shopping has doubled in the past five years and that 1 out of every 6 pounds are spent online. BoE also acknowledged the popularity of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” which are often week-long sales, encouraging people to spend more in November. Companies during “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” use the Sales psychology of “Negative Motivational Power,” a term coined by Brian Tracey in his book “The Psychology of Selling.” These positioned sales harness “Negative Motivational Power” as the fear of loss has a 2.5 power to sell something, as opposed to “Motivational power” as desire of improvement has a 1.0 to sell something.
But our spending habits do not come without consequence. As our natural planet continues to disappear and our landfills continue to fill, it is worth acknowledging our habits and perhaps reflect on how we can consume more ethically. Buying non-plastic-coated wrapping paper, not buying a new outfit, giving people experiences as opposed to physical gifts and choosing to eat in a more environmentally friendly way are small steps in a positive direction. As Christmas season arrives, a time of kindness and giving, the chance is here.