We have a tradition in our household that Christmas doesn’t get mentioned until 22nd November. That means that we can focus on our youngest daughter’s birthday the day before without any distraction. So no talk of present lists for Santa, no Christmas songs, no writing of Christmas cards, nothing. We might make an exception for mince pies though….
Clearly this is not an approach that is going to appeal to retailers out there. Given the current economic uncertainty, the recent downbeat forecast from the Bank of England and the ever present fear of a triple dip recession, they are no doubt desperate for Christmas shopping to start as early as possible so that they can reap the benefits of the sustained burst of consumer spending that normally takes place at this time of year.
And yet in spite of the gloom that persists I think there are some positives around that should make retailers and other businesses feel slightly more confident than maybe they have done for a while. Not least it is worth recalling that it was only a month or so ago the third quarter growth figures (which have recently been confirmed) showed a significant one per cent increase in GDP.
So what other grounds for optimism are there? Employment levels have remained stable over the past few years in spite of everything. The private sector seems to be picking up the slack as the public sector contracts, which itself does not appear to be happening as quickly as had been feared. The gap between price inflation and pay rises has been narrowing. Interest rates remain at record low levels and are unlikely to move upwards until well into next year at the earliest which means mortgage payments remain manageable. All of these factors will hopefully provide a fillip to consumer activity.
Even the failure of a major retailer such as Comet will have knock on benefits for other similar retailers. Equally good businesses who have been investing in their staff and products, which in the case of retailers means investing in their stores, will be creating the right environment for attracting customers.
And above all as Noddy Holder’s pension fund “Merry Christmas Everybody” will no doubt be bellowing out in shops everywhere “It’s Christmaaaasss!”. Whatever doubts they have about the economic situation people always find a reason to spend in the run up to the festive season. Even if they do wait until 22nd November to start doing so…..