A credit crunched Christmas?
(16 December 2008)
Three Durham University experts consider the credit crunch consequences for Christmas. Christmas will be a key indicator of the true effects of the credit crunch on consumer habits, according to experts at Durham University.
Shopping could be hit while a potential drop in spending on alcohol could mean a more peaceful festive season on Britain’s streets, the experts say. It could also mean that people enjoy a more ‘spiritual’ Christmas as they are forced to cut back on materialistic habits they add. John Tierney, expert in alcohol consumption and crime and disorder at Durham University, says research shows the credit crunch could reduce violent alcohol-related crime. Dr Tierney, Senior Lecturer in Durham University’s School of Applied Social Sciences, said: “This year, Christmas arrives in the middle of a recession, when unemployment is rising significantly and people are tempted to tighten their belts. “Interestingly, research shows that during periods of high unemployment violent crime tends to fall. This is because people (especially young men) have less money to spend on alcohol. “On the other hand, we will see intense, cut-throat competition among major retailers, as they lower the prices of their drinks. And, rather than tightening their belts, people may see the festive season as a good excuse to drown their sorrows. “We live in a society dependent on alcohol. Alcohol gives pleasure and fosters conviviality, but it has its dark side: trouble on the streets, trouble in the home, and health-related problems. “But, and especially at Christmas, it is well protected from any criticism – for all critics become kill-joys and Scrooges. The biggest kill-joys of all, though, are the inebriated drivers who cause a death on the road, the sozzled young man who violently assaults an innocent bystander, or the drunken husband who decides to teach his wife a lesson.” Dr Lawrence Black, expert in affluence and consumerism, suggests Christmas will test the true extent of the economic downturn. Dr Black, lecturer in History at Durham University, said: “In recent years we have become more used to spending than saving and the question is will this stop in 2008 as the Credit Crunch freezes the Christmas consumer frenzy? “The holidays will be a test of popular responses to the economic downturn - of its extent and the degree to which Britons can cope. It may well also be a test of advertising, the latter often held to account for the huge expectations Christmas carries for children in particular. The current financial situation could also bring religion to the fore as people put more emphasis on the spiritual side of Christmas. “Alternatively Christmas could provide a welcome relief from pressure at work, a boost to the High Street economy and a credit boom, which the Government hopes will revive the national economy.” Economist Tony Cleaver of Durham University Business School said: “The credit crunch means it’s bad for you and I to borrow and spend for Christmas, but it’s good if the Government does. “If you or I spend too much then we hit hard times in January. But if the Government overspends then that extra money flows into the economy and we all get a happier New Year!”