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Saturday, 29 December 2007

The growth of a silly new Christmas game

White Christmases are rare and church visits in pagan Britain rarer still, but every year I notice a new yuletide tradition burgeoning.

You see the first signs in the newspapers around the 18th of December. As regular as clockwork headlines announce that the nation’s merchants are quivering in their boots because customers are not doing their duty, and sales are down on the previous year’s.

I assume this is a ploy to make us all rush off to the shops and do our duty by the economy. It may also promise some peace and quiet to the poor shop assistants, but I’m getting bored, because although sales do indeed go down year on year, statistics, as usual, are a load of old codswallop.

The reason is simple. Although the British are celebrated – especially among car manufacturers - as perhaps the world’s most gullible customers, they are not complete idiots.

Many – cheapskates like me especially - patiently await the New Year Sales. Others keep their wallets closed till just before Christmas, when the shops announce they have been forced by “adverse trading conditions” to start their sales early, which is exactly what happened this year.

Yesterday I said to my son Nick, “I’m waiting for the first headline saying sales were not as bad as expected.”

“Too late,” he replied. “I saw one today.”

What is happening? The retailers are slowly educating customers. Pre-Christmas sales will continue to go down, and sales will start earlier and earlier – as they do in the U.S.

Another factor is the internet. I am waiting for the first headlines about the slump in stores being compensated for by the growth on-line.

Next year should be really interesting though, as the cumulative effects of Gordon Brown’s financial ineptitude over the last ten years start to have real effect.

Part of me really likes recessions, though. Advertisers suddenly realise marketing is about measurable results, not corporate bullshit, and turn to old hacks like me.

I have been trying, with difficulty, to work out how often our stuff fails to work so that I can boast about it. It seems to be about once or twice a year. The percentage must be very low because we do a lot of work; we did four jobs and a marketing review in the week before Christmas.

Lest you get the idea that this means we’re a bunch of geniuses, forget it.

It’s just that most of the people out there can’t write more than 100 words without getting lost because nobody taught them English. Anyhow my partner’s stuff does better than mine. She’s better looking, too.

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