I've basically written this post before and am sure I will write it again (many times) but stuck with me - it's something I feel strongly about.
For the last 17 years I've worked in retail in everything from one shop independents with a workforce of 2 to supermarket chains with - well a lot more than 2. I remember book selling before amazon, buying wine before the supermarkets really got in on the game, and a time when Black Friday meant absolutely nothing in this country. I enjoy shopping; I like browsing and hunting for bargains, I love the moment when you finally get to buy something a little bit more than you can easily afford, and I really love choice.
My first Christmas in a shop was an eye opener, people spend so much money. Are under so much pressure to spend money to buy the perfect Christmas, and on the other side of the till we really need it. This is the make or break time of year where you hope turn over and margin will combine to provide enough profit to keep you afloat. There is nothing more dispiriting than working till you can physically do no more and realising you still haven't quite met budget.
Earlier in the year there was a minor outcry when a Sainsbury's branch inadvertently displayed a motivational poster meant for staff eyes only in a window. It set the goal of getting every customer to spend an extra 50p per shop. For a supermarket that turns into a huge amount of money, for the customer it wouldn't buy a Mars bar. At the other end of the scale working in very small outfits it only takes a few customers to make the difference between profit and loss so my point is this; as we all prepare to spend to much money on things we don't really need let's think about how and where we do it.
As customers it's no use complaining that big shops kill the independents if we're the ones abandoning the little guys. There are more important things than a bargain, for me it's choice, or when it comes to food, welfare (including that of the producer).
At this point last night when I was writing this I decided to delete it thinking that it might all come across as a bit preachy to people I assume feel much the same as I do. Then this morning radio 4 talked about cyber Monday (estimated 600,000,000 sales online), a discussion about the plight of dairy farmers continued on Facebook (high suicide rates as they fail to make ends meet) and finally a goodish news story - Waterstones say if they have a good Christmas they'll Break even for the first time in a while. It's important to think about how we spend, it determines how our high streets look, how people make a living, and the choices we want to make regarding those things.
In the end I'll still hunt for bargains because money is tight, but cost isn't the only element that determines value and I want the money I have to do as much good as it can.