BY JOHN ELLIS, FINANCIAL ADVISOR
WE didn’t have #Elfontheshelf back in my day, but Santa’s spy has been keeping kids in check for several years now. However, there are a million Elf on the Shelf toys apparently stuck in China due to global port congestion, prompting media scare stories about elf rationing (only two per customer!) conveniently delivering a huge marketing boost for this new tradition.
On December 1, the elf arrives to spy on childrens behaviour in the run-up to Christmas. Parents must hide the elf in a new place every evening for the child to find. Local toy shops are selling “elf toys” costing anywhere between €7.99 and €49.99. Parents are using social media to share prank shots of naughty elves.
Why would a so-called childish pastime make national and international news? Money! It has become a multimillion-euro industry and it’s possible to get us to spend hundreds of euros before Christmas has even arrived.
We are being encouraged to spend early this Christmas. It’s been reported that experts say supplies of toys and gifts will be “materially constrained” this year”, with one predicting Black Friday and January sales will be muted because of shortages.
Irish book lovers have been warned not to wait until December to buy their Christmas reads because of a “perfect storm” of problems, including a global paper shortage impacting supplies within the industry. And Aoife Roantree of Dubray Books, who is also the chair of Bookselling Ireland, also believes the problem will be made worse by the demand for books in the run-up to Christmas.
And we are warned we can’t currently get the goods we want because of Covid, Brexit and the recent Suez Canal hold-up.
Irish shoppers are warned of the possible supply problems, shipping costs skyrocketing and have been encouraged to buy Christmas gifts early. While some of the largest toy and home furnishing companies in the country have said that they are experiencing delays ahead of the festive period and so shoppers are encouraged to buy products early this year.
IKEA Ireland has warned of supply chain problems that are affecting the delivery of some products at its Irish stores, with up to 10 % of goods unavailable.
Is there a conspiracy afoot? Do retailers want us to get Christmas wrapped up early and buy at full price. Could supply chain issues and talk of toy shortages this Christmas be clever marketing?
As usual Supermarkets have gone early with Christmas promotions on toys, food and drink. But as we are aware from previous years, the problem with stocking up on wine, champagne, biscuits and chocolate in November is the risk of polishing it off before Christmas and having to buy more at a later date.
But with all the inflationary pressures, most other retailers cannot afford the usual discounts. We are in the last quarter for retail profitability so there is a huge amount of pressure to spend big this year. Surveys suggest many shoppers plan to spend much more on gifts and celebrations to make up for last year.
But remember, it’s not about “stuff”. Christmas is the most emotional time of year; we buy on emotion and retailers sell on emotion, but nobody wants friends or family to get into debt.
Last week we looked at ways of celebrating Christmas without breaking the bank, so, to finish, what about donating money to charity instead of sending Christmas cards? Give your time; plenty of charities are looking for volunteers who give of their time. Food banks fear they will be inundated with requests this Christmas and are appealing for help with donations and deliveries.
Whatever celebrations we are planning, it would be heart-warming if helping others either through donating money or giving of our time became as much of a thing as “elfontheshelf” this Christmas.
And as Sergeant Phil Esterhaus of Hill Street Blues’ fame use to say, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”
John@ellisfinancial.ie – 086 8362633