I have been subject to a continual barrage of emails over the course of the week, promoting Black Friday sales. These have covered everything from power tools to medical supplies, children’s toys and even granite work surfaces. Obviously. there’s also been a lot of promotions for discount games. This eclectic mix reflects the fact that I use my online accounts to purchase items for my entire family. I hate to think what the various analysts and number crunchers make of this. My Amazon recommendations includes both urine bottles and Thomas the Tank Engine paraphernalia. But I digress, I’m sure pretty much all of us have been battered around the head and shoulders this week by various kinds of unsubtle marketing. However, I am happy to report that I have not succumbed to this “encouragement”. The simple fact is that I don’t need anything at present so have bought nothing. Furthermore, I had an epiphany nearly two decades ago, when I discovered that buying stuff really doesn’t make you feel any better, solve any of your problems or fulfil any of the inferred promises of the advertisements.
Economically speaking, the Black Friday pre-Christmas sales have become increasingly important to retailers and in the UK are a big indicator of consumer confidence and a litmus test of how well the public feel the country is fairing. So far from the numbers that have filtered through today, it would appear that spending is up 6% over last year. But before we put out the bunting and shout “Yay for the UK economy”, let’s temper our enthusiasm with the fact that consumer debt (mainly unsecured loans via credit cards) is currently £200 billion. That’s for a country with a population of 65 million. And at a time when interest rates are finally rising after a decade. Oh, and let’s not forget that minor political and economic event known colloquially as BREXIT. That may also have a bearing on the situation with regard to the value of the pound, the cost of living and future consumer borrowing.
If you take time to reflect upon the big picture, it’s a very sorry state of affairs. We live in a society where many are trapped in low paid jobs with little chance of opportunity or improvement. Many are deeply unhappy with what they do for a living and see little chance of life getting any better due to a decline in social mobility. Social media has lifted the scales from the public eyes and the divisions between the haves and the have nots are laid bare. The country currently bitterly divided and rational thought is in retreat. The decline in institutions such as the church, along with a waning of a sense of community has resulted in a nation of “individuals” desperately trying to assuage their personal sadness through retail therapy. It’s a recipe for disaster and 2018 is potentially the year when the proverbial chickens come home to roost. I am not optimistic that things are going to get better soon, nor do I have faith in any politicians to fix these problems. But hey, that was a sweat deal you got on an electric haemorrhoid massager.