Archive for October, 2008

Even Toytown is feeling the crunch this Christmas

In the UK too we have just 67 days to go until Christmas. That statistic is as likely to shrink as the revenue retailers will be able to squeeze from Christmas this year.

The Toy Retailers Association (TRA) launched Christmas shopping season officially this week with “Dream Toys”. The annual industry event showcases what they hope will be this year’s bestsellers. Among them, a Star Wars Trooper Helmet with preprogrammed messages. Retailing at $60 each sellers hope expect to be selling them by the truckload.

In fact, little complaining was to be heard; sellers were as cheerful as possible. Many insisted mom and dad will still want to buy their kids toys and that all the shops will have to do is make sure enough items are within financial reach.

Still, this is not Christmas 2007, when the mortgage crisis was mainly a USA thing, and not a Christmas 2006 at all either. Spending by the bucket load is out, at least for now, and frugal common sense has entered both lives and language.

Many retailers were talking for example about “cost per play” to try to express the value and worth of a product.

Then again, the past 5 years every year has been predicted as the worst Christmas selling season ever. And each turned out to be pretty good.

So what about this one?

“‘This Christmas is going to be the worst retailers have experienced in modern times. The past five years have been forecast as the “worst ever” and that hasn’t been the case; this year it will be. What is going on in the real economy is affecting every household in the country. Spending power is substantially diminished and that is going to be reflected in retail sales.”
Richard Hyman, retail analyst

Based on consumer surveys it’s expected that, in the UK, consumers will spend 6% more than they did last year. But that figure of about $1200 isn’t for toy sellers only. The breakdown is along the lines of roughly $600 gifts, $300 on food and $250 on socialising. Joy of Christmas predicts that’s pretty high for a lot of families out there.

Based on frugal patterns food is expected to be doing very well. It’s needed, no way around it, and at the same buck you get and a treat and good food.

Books, music and movies likewise are expected to be doing well in the UK. There’s a lot of new material coming out in the Christmas period. Also, the overall longtime worth of these items is perceived as very high.

What helps these sales is that as people curtail their spending from high end items and dining out to more frugal matters, staying at home with a good book or movie is seen as inexpensive pleasure.

“The book industry is reasonably optimistic about the outlook.

Books are a recession favourite because they are a good gift and don’t break; also the demise of the Net Book Agreement means they are cheaper than during the last recession. You can buy a book for £3.79 (USD $6.50) from Asda, which is less than a pint of bitter.”
Neill Denny, editor-in-chief of The Bookseller

In yet another annually recurring prediction the web is set to strike gold. Amazon UK expects their biggest Christmas ever, going head-to-head with main street in selling blockbuster DVD’s such as Batman The Dark Knight and the Abba musical Mamma Mia.

Oddly enough bargain hunters will be less well served as past years. The ample warning retailers have had of a slowing economy which then crashed and is now considered to be in a recession means they have bought less stock. Some “SALE!” activity is expected just before and after the holidays but full price will be the principle deal.

Angel Tree Program

Americans are, at heart, giving persons. Always strike us how that is so when the Season starts to warm up and we start to answer emails of people asking about the Angel Tree program. Singular. They want to give.

But invariably we have to answer them about the Angel Tree programs. Multiple. Because that’s who we are; we don’t have one such program, we have at least two.

The two best known are from Christian organisations: the Angel Tree prison fellowship and the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.

Christmas Angel Tree Program

Angel Tree works year-round for the 1.5 million children who have a father or mother who’s in prison. At Christmas time volunteers from participating churches buy gifts and deliver them to the kids but in the name of the parents.

The Salvation Army’s Christmas Angel Tree program, recently renamed to Holiday Christmas Angel Tree program, get children from families in need new clothes or toys. Usually a corporation sponsors a tree placement. The tree is decorated with paper angels, each of which has the first name of a child as well as the age and gender of the child. A person can take the paper angel of the tree and get a gift that’s just right for such a kid.

The Angel Tree program is centered more around churches while the Salvation Army’s program relies on sponsors such as corporations or neighborhood associations for the placement of its trees.

Every year I’m so impressed with the number of people emailing us, asking “can I give to your angel tree program”, “how to give to the angel tree” or “how can I start an angel tree”. We both feel a bit honored that people think we’re involved!