24 December 2009
It won't be too long before we figure out whether this Christmas was a good one.
One school of thought has been that this is going to be a terrific Christmas commerce wise. Comments from retail CEOs have been "cautiously optimistic", to use the in vogue phrase, which is optimistic nevertheless. Michael Luscombe at Woolworths has said that this would be a "good Christmas" and Gerry Harvey's unashamedly buoyant prediction of a record season are the two not-so-extreme ends of the corporate world's expectations that things are looking good for this crucial sales period.
At the other end has been the Australian Retailers Association. They say they've been talking to the guys and girls on the ground, and 54% of their members say that sales are less than a year ago. This particular retail industry body (there's a few – not to be confused with the Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA), or the Business Council of Australia, or the Business Council of New South Wales) says that three straight interest rate rises have curbed many consumers' enthusiasm for spending up big – even if the rates are still low by historical standards. The Business Council of New South Wales prefers to focus on the latter, and say the retailers they've been speaking to are feeling plenty of Christmas cheer.
Writing this on Christmas Eve, I'm fairly sure most shoppers won't notice much difference as they stew in the long queues and bemoan the sold-outness of their desired buys. More importantly, let's hope that for you a good Christmas isn't completely dependent on how much money is entering your pocket or leaving it (though of course we wish all the best to the retailers who depend so heavily on this period). As commercialised as gift giving may be, remember at its heart is an expression of thoughtfulness and love for those we're buying for.
And while to many of us on 602 "returns" refers to the benefit of an investment versus its cost, the phrase "many happy returns" has for centuries been a hope that a particular day of joy would recur many more times. Christmas is not just a nice little break (or in this year's case, a glorious four day weekend), but ultimately about being with those we love - at what is for at least some one of the holiest, and for all one of the happiest, times of the year.
Merry Christmas from the Business Channel, and for 2010, many happy returns of every kind.
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