Christmas shopping? Remember, it’s a jungle out there.
Thursday, December 5th, 2013
A version of this post first appeared in the Daily Record’s Edinburgh Now supplement.
Is eeny meeny miny moe a legitimate way to sort out modern-day dilemmas?
If so, consumers navigating the minefield of Christmas shopping might want to give it a try.
Certainly I’m having a bit of trouble deciding whether to shrug on the winter woolies and take to Shanks’ Pony for the foot-numbing, elbow-sharpening trawl round the shops, or to opt for the tap and swipe, point and click online experience.
Aye, it’s an almost laughable First World problem, I grant you. Yet the age old battle to part you from the pound in your pocket has turned into something of a test of the moral compass.
Monday wasn’t just a normal start back to the working week – it was Mega Monday. Cough. Yep, you heard right.
Also known as Cyber Monday, it is the first Monday of December, the hottest online shopping day of the year. The UK’s shoppers sent their mouses into meltdown to ensure gifts are delivered in plenty of time for the big day
Spending predictions ranged from £500m to £1.3bn. Whatever the final figure you can bet it made for big smiles in the upper echelons of Amazon, with the online shopping giant taking a significant portion of that business.
Yet at least eight Labour MPs have backed a campaign by Ethical Shopper, which is calling for a boycott of Amazon, because they believe it practices “aggressive” tax avoidance.
Those MPs include Margaret Hodge, chair of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, a woman you’d expect to know a thing or two about extracting the maximum value from every £1. She insists she has happily avoided Amazon for a year and found plenty of online alternatives.
Even if you are unconcerned about Amazon’s contribution to HM Government’s tax coffers, there is still a case for eschewing quick-fix convenience and taking 10 extra minutes and a few additional mouse clicks to shop smarter.
I’m assured by an accomplished internet shopping expert (the one at home) that the days of finding the guaranteed best prices on Amazon are a thing of the past. Other retailers – including Debenhams, John Lewis, Next and Lush who were all praised by Ethical Shopper – can often beat Amazon prices.
Yet others would have you abandon online shopping altogether and celebrate Britain’s status as a nation of shopkeepers by visiting bricks and mortar stores. This weekend will mark Small Business Saturday (Dec 7), as part of the Shop Small campaign.
Championed by that flexible friend, American Express, it exhorts consumers to get up from behind the PC and literally take to the streets.
It’s your chance to “support the local shops and small businesses that do big things for all of us: the butcher, the baker, the vintage dressmaker and all those other high street heroes who are the backbone of the UK economy and the heart of local communities”.
Whether you see a lofty ideal or a cynical ploy, Amex is putting its considerable heft behind the drive to deliver more custom to small businesses, with a huge marketing campaign and statement credits for card holders who splash the cash with SMEs..
We’ve just seen an example of how effective such marketing can be. Until last week “Black Friday” was an entirely American phenomenon. Traditionally it falls just after Thanksgiving and sees retailers offer a host of bargains and discounts to kickstart the annual festive splurge.
Now it has arrived on these shores with a vengeance – with near riots at Asda stores across Northern Ireland as shoppers stampeded to grab Black Friday bargains. One woman was left with a broken arm.
Still, if such naked consumerism sends your stress levels soaring, at least n Edinburgh you can venture to the German Christmas Market which is now an annual fixture at The Mound. There’s nothing like a glass of warming Gluhwein and a browse around, artisanal craft stalls to set the world to rights, is there?
Except now the Germans themselves are behind a market backlash, warning that the “handmade” goods are often mass-produced while the traditional values are being jettisoned to make way for fast food stalls and overpriced funfair rides.
Oh dear. Whatever way you cut it, Christmas shopping is more stressful and complicated than ever. Which probably explains how Amazon got its name – it’s a jungle out there.
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