All I want for Christmas is …

Supporting GLW supports the grassroots and social justice struggles it reports and defends. Photo: Peter Boyle

It’s that time of the year again. It’s the festival of festivals to boost the profits of giant retail stores. The “Spirit of Christmas” demands to be fed with your maxed out credit card.

There’s a new desperation to this seasonal message this year. The shoppers are not splurging like they should.

A recent Westpac survey found that consumers would spend 34% less in 2010 than in 2009.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman said: “This year has been tough for retailers with consumers still suffering from a post-GFC hangover and being very careful about opening their purses and spending on particular items, especially clothing, footwear and bigger ticket household items.”

But the retailers have a plan to fix this. The ARA said: “Retailers are moving away from the traditional strategy of holding post-Christmas sales, with almost 63% of retailers saying they will hold pre-Christmas sales this year, offering discounts of to 30% on top of other promotions such as product giveaways and two-for-one deals.”

Oh, cool! We can rush into a shopping centre now and get lots of stuff we don’t really need. And hey, we can put it all on the card, further lifting total Australian credit card debt higher than $50 billion.

Outstanding credit card loans have grown 16% in the past three years to $47.6 billion. $35.1 billion of this debt is accumulating interest and the banks are raising credit card interest rates, even though the average standard credit card interest rate is already 19.6%.

In June, the Melbourne Institute reported that credit cards had overtaken home mortgages as the biggest part of household debt.

Annette Sampson said in the November 27 Sydney Morning Herald: “After falling during the GFC, household debt has kicked back up again in Australia, to about 160% of disposable incomes, which is higher than US levels of about 120%”.

If this has put you off Christmas shopping, here is a way out: Give your friends and family something that’s useful and helps us build an alternative to this capitalist shop-till-you-drop madness. Give them a subscription to Green Left Weekly.

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