Holiday Season Consumerism in a Pandemic

by Audrey Chang ’22

Source: CNBC

Published Dec. 23rd, 2020

The holiday season is often characterized as the season of giving. However, giving generally occurs after purchasing, which is why the retail industry booms during the holidays.

It can be argued that consumerism in American society, which is the idea that an increase in goods and material possessions leads to a growth in a person’s wellbeing and happiness, is perfectly exemplified during the holiday season.

For example, stores and retailers begin heavily marketing their products around the holidays, creating eye-catching advertisements and billboards to catch consumer attention. When asked if she thinks the holiday season plays a big role in American consumerism, Caroline Zhao ‘23 states, “I think consumerism is very rampant around the holidays. Around this time of year, people start thinking about gift giving, sales last all month, [and] it’s very hard not to notice it.”

Jennifer Gu ‘23 also believes that “the holidays are full of people giving gifts, and most of that depends on purchasing goods. Something that’s in stock in a certain store would last for a couple weeks normally, but during the holidays it could be out of stock within a day or two.”

Despite the economic strain created by the COVID-19 pandemic, retail sales have risen overall by 4.1% since 2019. Jennifer suggests that this is might be due to the fact that “with social distancing and everything, gifts are a way of showing people that you really appreciate them. And that’s why I’ve been spending quite a long time shopping and purchasing gifts for people.”

The onset of the pandemic has also changed the timing of retail trends and consumer attitudes. American consumers are known to start purchasing the newest technology, clothing trends, and more through the months of November to early January. In most years, retail sales rise starting in November, but this year, holiday shopping started picking up in mid-October, around Amazon Prime Day, leading to a 1.1% decrease in November sales.

Some Americans have also started changing their consumer behavior in 2020, planning to decrease holiday spending as the pandemic continues afflicting households.

Nevertheless, despite the continuation of the pandemic and the changes in retail trends, it can be agreed that the holidays are a time to rewind, gather with loved ones, and enjoy the festivities.

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