Wednesday 6 December 2006

'Tis the season for profit warnings

Some of my best friends are retailers, so it pains me to think of their little faces crumpling in disappointment as they unwrap their December profit and loss accounts. But it’s like denying that wailing fat kid his third Whopper. You just know it has to be done.

Christmas made some sort of sense in that old world where winters were cold, decent meals rare and clockwork toys a source of wonder. What exactly is its point now, when most of us are able to eat, drink and make merry throughout the year?

Yes, I know, it’s a great religious festival, conveniently tacked onto a much older celebration of the fact that the days weren’t going to continue getting shorter indefinitely.

What I’m proposing is that it should be wrested from the retail industry and reclaimed by Christians, who have a much better sense of proportion about the whole thing. I mean, you don’t go into churches in October and find them bedecked with tinsel, the vicar wearing a red hat and Slade blasting out over the PA system, do you?

Some people will say I am bitter because I went to the trouble of growing a white beard in the hope of gaining some seasonal work, and then found no suitable openings. It’s true that I cooled on the idea when I was told that I would have to be vetted, thinking it involved something unpleasant with cold steel rather than a simple police records check. By the time someone put me right, all the grottoes of the North East were fully staffed. But that has nothing to do with my stance.

I’ve just got tired with the months of relentless advertising. This year Asda’s commercials have come closest to making me put a heavy boot through my TV screen. I’ve managed to restrain myself chiefly because I know I’d end up going out to buy another set, which would be rather playing into their hands.

I’m sick of the constant incitement to spend ever more on things you neither need nor want, in the belief that this will guarantee you a marvellous time. It won’t.

Weaning retailers off their dependence on Christmas won’t be easy. It will be like relieving Tony Blair of power, or getting a rock star off drugs. But I contend that it needs to be done. And if we consumers stick together and make this, as predicted, the worst Christmas on the high street for 25 years, it will be a valuable step in the right direction.

Keith Hann is a PR consultant who secretly has a bit of a soft spot for turkey twizzlers.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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