This was the first year in some time that I was out shopping on Black Friday. I usually get most of my holiday shopping done prior to Thanksgiving. Completely avoiding the annual post-Thanksgiving rush has been an objective of mine for some time. It is not the case in 2007.
However, my delayed shopping for the holiday season this year is hardly unique. A Consumer Reports survey of the American public indicates that only 22 percent of people anticipate finishing holiday shopping right after Thanksgiving. This compares to 30 percent in 2006. In fact, 45 percent of respondents said they do not anticipate finishing their shopping until the second week of December, and another 20 percent said they would be out shopping until December 24th.
In general, the public will be shopping later in the season and I will be among the crowd. So what kind of a crowd will it be? What is the mood of the consumer in America in late 2007? The information obtained from various polls and surveys does not indicate much holiday cheer.
High energy prices, a mortgage loan crisis, and talk of a recession have hurt American confidence in the economy. World events such as the war in Iraq, instability in Pakistan, and a potential conflict with Iran have added to the unease. Also, American consumers will shop this holiday season, aware that thousands of products manufactured by American companies in China have been recalled due to high levels of lead. In general, Americans enter the holiday season in a dark mood, with economic worries, product safety, security fears, and the high cost of energy fueling their growing pessimism.
Therefore, with the consumer in such a sour mood, it is critical this holiday season to have a survival guide. Here is my list of twelve do’s and don’ts.
1. Think twice before buying clothing as a gift: More than two thirds of people intend to buy clothing as a holiday gift this year. Consumers indicate that clothing is their number one gift idea. However, last year clothing was the most disappointing gift that people received for the holidays. Indeed, more than half of men said they were disappointed to receive various types of clothing for the 2006 holidays including socks, sweaters, and shirts.
2.Give men electronic gifts: Nearly 25% of men surveyed chose electronic items as their primary gift wish for the holidays. They are the most popular holiday item for men. Many men hate receiving clothes, but love electronic gifts. In essence, most men are alright with being marginally clothed as long as they can have their electronic toys.
3. Buy women gift cards: This is the top choice holiday gift requested by women, according to recent surveys. Unlike most men, many women love buying clothes. They just want to buy their own.
4. Avoid the temptation to re-gift: Overall, nearly 25% of us now re-gift items that we previously received. Nearly 75% of people are not on a holiday budget. The 25% who are on a budget are probably the people who are re-gifting. Note: if you are re-gifting, make sure you are not giving the item back as a gift to the person you received it from originally. This may lead to some tense moments over the eggnog.
5. Don’t give a lump of coal as a gift: In the last several years this has been a gift given as a humorous practical joke. This year it may be seen as a serious attempt of charity to help a person with their high home energy bill.
6. Don’t eat fig pudding: I don’t believe anyone does this, but it’s an old time tradition and this warning belongs in every holiday survival guide. Fruit cake may also be included in this category.
7. Don’t buy a black Christmas Tree: They are for sale at high prices and they are the apparent new trend in holiday decorating design. Think of what you are doing. People will think you bought a tree that was salvaged from a fire.
8. Say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”: We should remember that more than two thirds of Americans prefer to use the phrase “Merry Christmas” over that of “Happy Holidays”. However nearly 90% of Republicans prefer Merry Christmas to less than 60% of Democrats. So to be politically correct, in Republican voting states be sure to say “Merry Christmas”, while either “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” will do in states that vote Democratic.
9. Don’t sing , ” I’m Dreaming of A White Christmas,” ” Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, “Sleigh Ride”, “I Have My Love to Keep Me Warm” or any other cold and frigid Christmas carol. Are we hoping that everyone north of the Mason/Dixon line goes broke due to the high cost of heating their homes from the cold this December? These songs are no longer politically correct. They should be banned until the price of heating oil goes dramatically lower.
10. Last year’s most popular holiday vacation destination for Americans was Malaysia (great work by the Malaysian travel bureau). If we insist on singing and dreaming about the cold and snow for Christmas, at least we should be more consistent and travel on holiday vacations to somewhere like Northern Canada or Alaska instead of Malaysia.
11. Beware of the holiday office party: This can be a career breaker, so stay sober. Drinking and holiday parties, like drinking and driving, are a bad mix. Also, do not attempt to sing or dance if you are not good at it. Cell phones are excellent at capturing these most embarrassing moments.
12. Immediately run or cover your ears from the holiday sound (I cannot call this music) of Alvin and the Chipmunks or that hideous dog barking to the tune of Jingle Bells.
This is my survival guide for the 2007 holiday season. Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday, a Happy Hanukkah, or a Happy Kwanzaa and see you on the other side in what should be an interesting year in 2008.