If you are anything like all the normal people this time of the year, your shopping mode is reaching frenzy levels. Holidays are just around the corner – Christmas and then New Year’s Eve, or the other way around – whichever sequence you prefer. It is the season of giving and receiving, with all the well-wishes of health, happiness and so on.
Shopping is not an easy task, however. Buying all the Christmas gifts and New Year’s Eve presents is a serious undertaking. At a glance, it seems very similar to buying a birthday gift. Yet, it actually isn’t. A birthday gift usually requires a visualization of a person celebrating the big day which doesn’t always help in choosing the right present. With holidays, you have to visualize a whole bunch of people – from the ones you really want to treat with a nice gift and who bring you joy, and those you mustn’t skip but you don’t truly care for, to those you’d prefer not even seeing over the holidays but you really have to because a certain protocol entails it. So, you see – a whole bunch of problems layered one on top of the other.
There is also good news. Whenever you hit a low point while shopping for gifts for others, think of all the recent shopping festivities that you used as an excuse to treat yourself with a bunch of stuff! It was less than a month ago. We are obviously talking about Black Friday. Up until recently, the Black Friday annual sales were a phenomenon, but only in the USA. It was the day after Thanksgiving that is celebrated nation-wide, when local retailers saw an opportunity to earn a bit more, adding additional discounts on the merchandise they normally sell. Over the past few years, the Black Friday sales have become a global pandemic, turning into a worldwide shopping holiday.
Media outlets showed scenes from shopping malls around the world this year with thousands of people lining up in front of closed stores, to enter like a stampede the moment the doors open.
But wait, there is more… With the development of online shopping, Cyber Monday joined the Black Friday festivities, and it takes place in the virtual sphere of internet. THE Monday follows THE Friday so it seems like a long weekend kinda thing? It all sounds like a holiday to me.
In the meantime, Cyber Monday went a few shades darker compared to Black Friday. In the US, according to Adobe Analytica the turnover in sales on this year Black Friday was 7.4 billion USD, followed by 9.2 billion USD on Cyber Monday. The trend continued from last year when Cyber Monday was 7.9 billion USD (still topping sales from this year Black Friday).
The US is not the only country with a bragging right to introducing shopping holidays. China created the “Singles Day” shopping holiday in November, on 11/11. The story of how the festivities came to be can be traced to early 90’s in Chinese university dorms. Namely, male students picked the only date in the entire year that is marked with four number 1 to celebrate their single status. However, the tech giant Alibaba in 2009 took over the date giving it a new flavor and turning it into a global shopping extravaganza.
Just to be perfectly clear – Chinese Singles Day surpasses both US holidays combined – with Alibaba’s daily sales hitting the 30 billion USD mark in 2019.
Something, it seems, escapes the logic. Why all the shopping holidays? We get discounts, special offers, seasonal sales and all the retail thingies as a part of our everyday life. These are literally screaming at us from all the screens – phones, computers and a few TVs that are still around. Shops and their windows are inviting us in, our mailboxes are overflowing with offers and codes. So, what is the big secret?
There is no big secret, no great reveal. As a consumerist society we have come a long way. We shopped for what we needed, that was the start. Then we began shopping for things that will make us fit into a desired image of who we want to be, then we shopped for things that would makes us feel better, prettier or more successful. Then we were shown things we didn’t even know we needed, for situations we never knew could happen but we somehow ended up being persuaded to buy them as these needs will arise in the future and we ought to be prepared. When it started becoming difficult to come up with new essentials, prices, discounts and special offers started to take over the scene. Despite the fact that you don’t really need another pair of shoes, a jacket or a crème – the price is so good that you have to buy it anyway. Otherwise you end being a loser, passing up an opportunity of a lifetime. If you cannot pay right now, installments are there to assist. Special offers are secured for those joining the loyalty programs, collecting points to benefit their future shopping.
And so, we naturally came to a point where the consumer is required to become a part of the consumer religion so to speak. Those who believe are only required to be loyal and devout, dedicated to the cause. The religion spread largely due to tech developments that simplified shopping to an extreme while making it truly global. In addition, every consumer with a cell phone in his pocket has become a proponent of the new religion, who selflessly and constantly, urbi et orbi, conveys his true faith in a better world, where discounts and offers appear daily, showing through regular posts, updates and clicks how shopping is the way to ultimate happiness.
When that is the case, it makes perfect sense to have holidays that celebrate the religion and its devotees. Those are the days when one should truly show one’s relentless dedication to the faith, and as a proof of that sacrifice by shopping in excess. I am not buying this today because I need to, or because the price is great, I am not shopping because I have to, but because I want to – that is what we do on this holy day. I am dedicating this day to myself and I am shopping for myself. Amen!
Season’s Greetings from/to Me, Myself and I!