Christmas is here.
It’s not only the season to be jolly, it’s also the reason to be jolly. It’s the season for buyers to be jolly and the reason for sellers to be jolly.
Yes. We lost the Christmas spiritual plot years ago. I think this is possibly the reason why Christmas has different meaning to different people. It’s the time for giving to the poor, some say. It’s the time to be with family, others counter. No. We haven’t done Christmas shopping yet. No. It’s a day to be spent in church. No. It can’t be, because all other religions “celebrate” it, so it’s a holiday to stay at home and avoid traffic. No. It’s all these. And on and on. One thing though has steadily snowballed for many years now- the Christmas season has become one long sale. And I doff my hat to the sellers that saw the grey areas in meaning and have steadily exploited it.
Christmas time is a practical guide on how buyers can be erratic. In Kenya, all spending logic goes out the window, from the month, and especially the week, leading into the New Year. November and December drive 30 per cent more e-commerce revenue than non-holiday months, according to E-commerce Holiday Trends, a report done by 2015 Benchmark. In Kenya it must be 120% more.
The season to be jolly overshadows all reason, except that of sellers, to be jolly. Kenyans have been known to spend with reckless abandon in the last week of every year and lament the coming month how starved their pockets are. We want to travel, entertain, make merry, and foot back to school costs while still meeting our recurring obligations of rent, utilities and food all within the same period and income. Forget that in a “normal” month we are usually broke by the 20th solely from the recurring costs; we still hope (by some mysterious alchemy) that we’ll successfully wade through this financial predicament on the same income. The joke that we have more month at the end of our money will hold true for Kenyans for a long time to come.
Experts and radio hosts write and talk to caution against this behaviour; lending institutions gave up and decided that if you can’t beat them join them. And so on sale this month are one month holiday loans. But that’s not all; from plots on sale, to incentives of mbuzi (goats) from supermarket purchases to comedy shows out of town it’s all there to make buyers jolly. And just so the mood of “Christmas” is maintained, symbolic icons will be strategically placed to accost our eyes and ears. Christmas decorations and a Father Christmas incessantly ringing a bell, will probably welcome you to the outlet and Boney M will keep you entertained as you shop.
Meanwhile, uniform and book shops staff yawn from boredom at the lack of buyers. If you’ve never tried it, please do your back to school shopping in November or very early December. You will be overwhelmed by the attention from everyone-even the owner. “Phew!,” they’ll mentally celebrate, “a customer to break our idleness.” But they also know that the idleness will receive a pleasantly rude awakening the weekend before schools open. Like a tsunami hitting shore, parents will flock these outlets with grim faces because the season to be jolly will be over for them; but for sellers in these establishments, the reason to be jolly will kick in.
We disengaged the spiritual Christmas gear and engaged the commercial one years ago. We may need to re-engage the spiritual gear for divine intervention, so as to regain some spending sobriety going forward.
Merry Christmas!-whatever it means to you.
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