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The grinch of post-grinch shopping

When you’ve been in retail for as long as I have, or perhaps even longer, there are a few emotions specific to the holiday season you will have experienced, guaranteed.

1. A lustful, crazed desire to grab those effing carols and shove them somewhere the sun never, ever shines.

2. Deep and sincere regret of the over indulgence in festive cheer the night before when you have a super long shift on the shop floor ahead of you. No amount of coke, pies or KFC will resolve the dull thud in your head or the endless stream of panicked shoppers.

3. Security in the knowledge that Boxing Day is one of your super duper biggest days of the year, so heartfelt relief and happiness that you have Christmas Day off.

Christmas time. Mistletoe and wine….or shopping online?

As I savoured my Christmas Eve bubbles my phone pinged with reminders about Boxing Day Sales. Nothing new there. Then shock, horror! Nasty little rippers came hurtling in, beckoning me to actually shop on Christmas Day. I have nurtured a lifelong love affair with retail, but seriously guys, this was sacrilegious.

What was the vision?

Imagine, a lovely Christmas Day setting, opening presents with the family around the tree, wrapping paper strewn everywhere and kids riding their new bikes in the background. Mum then reaches for her iPad to hop on the Bed, Bath & Beyond website and buy some new towels (well they are 50% off).

Hey I’ve got an idea, why don’t we all go online shopping. It’s Christmas Day after all!!

Or perhaps after Christmas pudding you tire of drunk Uncle Pete’s jokes and look to avoid the argument boiling over between your stroppy cousins so you wander into the loo and surf The Warehouse website to get an Intex Pool for everyone to cool off in. Or a new XboxOne so the cuzzies can bond next time they are together.

Shut it Uncle Pete! I’m off to the loo for some online shopping in private.

I acknowledge there are plenty of people who don’t formally celebrate Christmas or are lonely, but surely this blatant online shopping activation on Christmas Day is a bit off? Or is this hard core retailer going soft in her middle age?

The sale to end all sales

Softer maybe, but still sceptical. I tend to believe that retailers who claim great results from having their “Boxing Day Sales” before Christmas have actually missed a trick. They either pulled forward discount sales, missing out on valuable margin and/or they were discarded from the shopping list before Boxing Day even started as shoppers pursued bigger and better bargains.

Boxing Day bargain-hunters spent a record-breaking $140m on Boxing Day according to Paymark figures. If that feels big, remember Christmas Eve was still the busiest shopping day of the festive season up 10.5% on the prior year at $263.5m from 4.8m transactions.

The Boxing Day lines may have snaked through stores with true discounts, deep cuts or opportunity buys but I wonder how far pre-Christmas discounting has impacted on shopper perceptions. And are these shifts going unnoticed, or only discussed behind closed doors?

You might bag a bargain TV or Playstation on the 26th, but it was 25% off toys at Farmers or The Warehouse sporadically throughout the entire month before Christmas; 20-30% off at Decjuba, Esprit or Country Road on and off from November up until Christmas Eve, so where’s the compelling new reasons to come in and spend at those stores? Perhaps I am too cynical or just over shopped, if you can be either of those things.

Hesitate and prosper

My new year’s resolution was to behave like a grown-up and make grown-up decisions. The first example of this newly implemented grown-up-ness was to buy a wine fridge so I could clear my regular fridge of all the wine and fill it with more fruit and veggies. A big tick for grown-up-ness.

I set about scouring mailers for the best bargain and it came down to Mitre 10 or Harvey Norman. The Mitre 10 product, while a good value buy, was a bit of a toy and I am all about grown-up these days. At Harvey Norman an eager young chap approached me as I observed my prospective new refrigeration partner. A lovely shiny wine fridge for 36 bottles with both white & red temperature control. The store also had 50 months interest-free posters up, but I knew from past experience the minimum purchase to qualify for that offer would be well over $1000 and my fridge was not.

Still reeling from the effects of Christmas and wondering where in this massive store my kids had disappeared to, I said out loud that I needed to think about how I was going to pay for it. Boom! The price of the already discounted fridge was immediately dropped a further $100. Now, I pride myself on managing my money with skilled precision to freeload on the generosity of credit terms and loyalty points optimisation so I was still mulling credit card, cheque account or savings when Kerching! I got 12 months interest free without uttering a single word. Deal sealed. I’m not sure if there was a lesson from this transaction other than to look slightly dazed and distracted next time you are buying whiteware or brownware.

Let’s hope 2015 brings more engaging retail experiences rather than cutting the arse out of prices, which is a road to nowhere and ultimately unprofitable. And retailers, please be clear about your onliness, the way you are that makes you different from the competition. In the context of busy shopper lives it’s a trick worth nurturing. Welcome to 2015. The Easter bunny isn’t far away. Just ask Baker’s Delight and Countdown.

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