Be a decent person: go shopping this weekend

November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving is a week away, which has the consumerist industrial complex eagerly looking forward to squeezing every last penny out of this year’s shortened holiday shopping season. But how much is too much, and how early is too early?

In October, the National Retail Federation released a study predicting a 4.1 percent increase in sales this holiday season to $616.9 billion, a number “expected to represent approximately 19.2 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion.” So that’s over 600 billion reasons for sellers to make their wares available to buyers as early, as often and as easily as possible.

But an ever-growing movement of contentious gift givers is pushing back on behalf of hourly workers, common decency, and the real spirit of the holidays. This image from the Say No To Shopping on Thanksgiving Facebook page has been shared more than one million times, and think pieces on the evils of Thanksgiving shopping litter the Web. 

As this Reuters graphic shows, the anti-shopping brigade is facing an uphill battle. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week, 46 percent of shoppers have accomplished exactly nothing, with all of their shopping remaining, while almost a quarter of shoppers—24 percent—have done less than a quarter of their shopping. A combined 29 percent intend to shop primarily or only in stores this season, which should help, and if history is a gauge, Americans will spend almost $2 billion on Cyber Monday—but that’s just a rounding error in the $600 billion industry-wide prediction. Meanwhile, in a sign of implicit surrender, the Huffington Post published a story celebrating “13 Stores That Won’t Open On Thanksgiving.”

Of course, bemused memories of the barbarous battles over Cabbage Patch Kids that marred my youth are a reminder that people have a visceral need to make their loved ones happy, an impulse that shouldn’t be understated. So what is a considerate consumer to do this holiday shopping season? Why the humanitarian yet economically patriotic thing, of course: go shopping this weekend.

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