Imagine, for a moment, hanging out in your high-school or college and finding the disaffected loner: wearing all black, sitting quietly but ready to dispense cynical wisdom to anyone that wanders nearby. Today, his rant is about holidays and consumerism..
He argues, “Mother’s day and Valentine’s day are made-up holidays! They were invented by retailers to boost chocolate and greeting card purchases to get over the post-Christmas slump!”
Despite donning a similarly cynical mantle from time-to-time, I didn’t find this argument compelling. I’ve never really found too much to dislike about the connection between consumerism and holidays. Yes, I get annoyed when local pharmacy shops start pushing Halloween candy or seasonal pumpkin-spice flavors in the dog-days of August. It’s like reverse global-warming, when snow and ice themed holiday decorations start creeping into grocery stores and shopping malls earlier and earlier to get us ready for the holiday buying season. Still, consumers are rational. People think about - and budget for – holiday shopping all year long! Buying into the additional marketing push is still all voluntary. Besides, there is a historical basis for these holidays. You can’t make up a holiday from nothing and meaningfully change consumer behavior, right? Right?
Actually, it turns out I may be wrong. Holidays are made up for special or frivolous causes all the time; I’m particularly fond of “Talk Like a Pirate Day” in mid-September. They don’t usually have much impact. Alibaba, the Chinese online retailer, has co-opted a silly holiday - Single’s day, an antidote to Valentine’s day for China’s large unattached population – and turned it into a record shattering celebration. Single’s Day generated $9.3 billion dollars in sales over a single day.