The season of goodwill draws nigh – a time of over-indulgence, expensive gifts, compulsory happiness and a rosy glow. I’m not so sure this year.
There are plenty of statistics showing the positive impact that Christmas generally has on the UK economy. This country is Europe’s biggest household spender during the festive season.
The usual beneficiaries, such as toy manufacturers and retailers, rely heavily on this period to carry them through the entire year; two-thirds of annual toy sales occur in autumn, although design and manufacturing costs have to be borne in advance. For them, Christmas is always a gamble.
Perhaps even more season-centric, the Christmas markets held in cities like Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester attract people in their droves. In addition to stuff they actually buy from the stall holders, the Local Government Association calculates that visitors add around £500m to local economies through money spent in pubs, restaurants and hotels.
2019 promises to be very different – Brexit alone has seen to that. Many tradespeople stocked up early because of the phantom deadline of October 31, which has meant up-front transport costs and expensive storage – not to mention the increased price of imported goods due to the falling value of sterling. Imagine the pain if consumers don’t show up.
As for the struggling retailers, the normal intake of thousands of part time and full time workers is not going to happen, at least not on the same scale. The only exception is likely to be Amazon and companies of that ilk with their daily Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays. Boxing Day sales in the shops may well be consigned to history.
And then, of course, we have the General Election to add to other factors that, taken together, are causing uncertainty among consumers and businesses alike. Christmas parties may have to be postponed or even cancelled altogether.
But what about other sectors, like manufactures or even financial service providers, who have to finance the whole month of December when they only get two weeks, three at best, out of their workforce? This is a tough time of the year when, even outside the lost fortnight, there is a slump in productivity due to office parties and lower levels of motivation.
I know: Bah Humbug. So, let’s look on the bright side and hope that 2020 at least brings us all some certainty for the future.