THE CASE FOR MATERIALISM

Shop­ping at Christ­mas can be good for you

Alberta Venture - - Marketing Matters -

At­tend­ing A Christ­mas Carol is a hol­i­day tra­di­tion in Al­berta. Theatre Cal­gary and Ed­mon­ton’s Citadel Theatre put on heart­warm­ing pro­duc­tions of Charles Dick­ens’ clas­sic tale. Although it takes mul­ti­ple vis­its from the ghosts of Christ­mas past, present and fu­ture, Scrooge is even­tu­ally trans­formed into a kin­der and more gen­er­ous man. He opens his heart and his pock­et­book to em­brace and cel­e­brate the sea­son with fam­ily and friends. The story is a timely and en­ter­tain­ing re­minder of the spirit of the hol­i­days.

To­day, many peo­ple are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile the spirit of Christ­mas with an in­creas­ingly ma­te­ri­al­is­tic and com­mer­cial hol­i­day sea­son. Re­tail­ers stock their Christ­mas sec­tions as early as the sum­mer months and the fes­tive mu­sic loops be­gin early in the fall. As an­noy­ing as many peo­ple find “Christ­mas creep,” re­tail­ers are feel­ing in­tense pres­sure to per­form dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son. The av­er­age Al­ber­tan is ex­pected to spend more than $2,000 on Christ­mas this year, in­clud­ing gifts, en­ter­tain­ing, dec­o­ra­tion and travel. Our big­gest re­tail­ers, from Walmart and Cana­dian Tire to Loblaws and Sobeys, are in a heated com­pe­ti­tion for those dol­lars.

As de­pend­ably as Santa puts presents un­der the tree, we will crowd malls, join long lines and spend hours surf­ing on­line for the per­fect present. At the same time, head­lines and cof­fee shop con­ver­sa­tions will de­cry the rise of materialism. Just last year, the Pope used his Christ­mas homily to de­nounce con­sump­tion and warn us not to be in­tox­i­cated by pos­ses­sions. But is materialism such a bad thing?

Ac­tu­ally, most re­search in this area tends to sup­port the Pope. When con­sumers fo­cus on buy­ing things, they of­ten pay a price, be­yond the cash regis­ter, that is re­flected in a lower over­all sense of well-be­ing. In some cases, ex­ces­sive con­sump­tion even ap­pears to be crowd­ing so­cial re­la­tion­ships out of our lives. One par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing re­cent study, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Con­sumer Re­search, in­ves­ti­gated the link be­tween lone­li­ness and materialism. The study ex­am­ined 2,500 con­sumers over a six-year pe­riod and found that materialism does in­deed make use lone­lier. More­over, when we are feel­ing lonely, we be­come more ma­te­ri­al­is­tic. This leads to a vi­cious cy­cle of buy­ing more and feel­ing less con­nected to other peo­ple and then buy­ing more and feel­ing even lone­lier. The ef­fect was par­tic­u­larly strong among young adults and se­niors. Sin­gle peo­ple were more likely to pur­sue hap­pi­ness through pur­chases than those in a re­la­tion­ship.

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