With the frazzled American economy still dominating the headlines, it's no wonder there is much attention being focused on the Christmas selling season currently under way. The truth is if you pay attention to retailers, the Christmas selling season has been under way since before Halloween as has been the trend in recent years.
There's much at stake during this spending period. Many retailers traditionally report a third or more of their annual business sales during the lead-up to Christmas. So it's important on many levels that dollars change hands extensively during the next six weeks.
Even pessimistic economists agree that it could be much worse. Had gasoline prices remained at mid-summer levels hovering around $4 per gallon, there would be fewer available dollars to spend during this holidays. So perhaps the reduced gasoline dollar drain has put a few more bucks into consumers' hands. But will that translate into an improved retail picture in the weeks ahead?
I don't mean to offend any retailers because those fine folk put food on my table, but maybe we Americans need a wake-up call to address the exploding cost of Christmas that erupted during "good times." Many Americans spent on Christmas as if it were their last. Those days - at least for now - may soon be a distant memory.
I've heard the refrain - and perhaps you have too - that many families acknowledge they go way overboard on holiday spending. We all make some comparisons with the Christmases of our youth when times were less plentiful, regardless of your age. So a return to a more creative approach to Christmas and a return to the true meaning of the holiday season may not be the worst thing that could happen.
Now don't get me wrong. You and I and millions just like us will still fight the shopping throngs and curse the long lines and the holiday chaos. That much will probably always remain.
But perhaps a bit of austerity is an appropriate dose of reality this holiday season. Perhaps those dozen or so gifts for the kids will give way to half that amount. Maybe it's time we measure the spirit of the season not with quantity but with quality. Granted, those are nasty words for most retailers but heck, look around you and gauge the uncertainty of your future and you'll probably agree.
We all have personal family stories handed down from parents and grandparents who talk about the lean times during their Christmas youth. An apple, an orange and perhaps a solitary toy. But somehow those generations survived and those meager holidays remain etched in their memories to this very day.
There was an extremely sad story that originated out of New York last week about the BMW dealers there worried that their holiday sales to the Wall Street big shots would suffer this year. Well boo hoo! You won't find any tears across the country that the greed in that area is having a costly impact.
In so many ways, few of us want to return to yesteryear and those austere times. And that's certainly not my point.
But let's accept the proposition that many of us have been somewhat guilty about spending for the holidays like there was no tomorrow. And let's accept that the economy on a national and personal level has change that situation. So what's wrong with putting a little more meaning and a little less money into the Christmas season?
To be sure, you'll see me once again fighting the crowds and eyeing holiday bargains. But hopefully I'll find myself spending more time on gifts that have meaning and less time on trying to buy everything in sight.
Mr. Retailer I apologize. But it could well be - given this change in attitude - the best Christmas ever.