A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Christmas is over!" Or is it?

On Christmas Eve I was toying with the idea of getting a last minute gift. I went to the retail park and thought I'd pop into Homebase. The store looked rather unlit for the season. A man was standing outside, as if on guard. "Oh, are you closing?" I ventured. "Yeah, well, er, what do you want? Do you know exactly?" "Yes, yes!" I said,. "Well, in that case, be quick". I then added some remark about them closing earlier than the other stores. "Christmas is over!" he muttered. "Oh?" I said, "Whatever happened to the Twelve Days of Christmas?". He looked at me darkly.

Retailing used to comprehend Christmas. Then it became much more of Christmas-in-Advent. Woolworths was the first store in Britain to abandon the season of Christmas. Now look where they are. All the supermarkets get agitated on the 25th September. This is the date when the Christmas season starts for them. Forget about sell-by-dates. You can have five before Christmas Day if you are keen on mince pies. When questioned about the fact that they were stuffing shelves with Christmas fayre three months before the day, supermarket spokespersons blithely replied that customers liked a treat in advance. No wonder people have given up on Christmas come Boxing Day. They've been given too much beforehand.

Retailing is a vital element in our lives. We need retailers to sell us things that we require. But do we need to be so gullible, so easily led? Can we not enjoy Christmas when it comes, whether or not we are religiously minded? I have a fear that retailing may be the last chink to fly loose. We have surrended our manufacturing capabilities. We do have inventiveness, but that is sold to the Chinese and others. I bought a pair of decent pyjamas at Asda yesterday for £6. How much went to the Sri Lankan worker I do not know, but I hazard a guess it was not much. I'm pleased I got them, but I am getting a bit of a conscience twinge. Some tell me that there's not much I can do about it, apart from not buying things. But how can I do that when so much (probably everything) in superstores is made overseas?

At one time it was only MFI that had continual sales (except when they had promotions!) and MFI is now in retailing oblivion. Retailers are mixing "driving down costs" "tax increases" and "Made in China" into a potent concoction. How cheap everything can get is far from certain. Even before Christmas shops were offering "massive discounts" that one wondered if the New Year might see them in receivership. Price rises must surely come about just to keep businesses afloat. But that may well be where the trouble begins. It's all very well having stuff made in China, but if the Chinese workers feel they are the ones getting a raw deal, costs there will increase. And workers in the UK, Europe, USA, et al in the West will also clamour for better conditions.

Maybe British retailers should take a step back and look at things long term. For instance, does it make sense to spend so much carting apples around the world when they can be grown a few miles from the local shops? And is the quality of the fruit worth it all. We just got some strawberries which have the texture of apples. Why have these soft fruits got hard centres? Oh, and we bought a load of green bananas as they passed their sell-by-date. Does any of it make sense?

Stores need to be reborn themselves. Otherwise we may all go down, fighting over the last remnants in the penny bazaars!


Post a Comment