Monday, December 19, 2005

Merry Christmas and Happy Shopping!

Cha-chingle bells For many American consumers, Christmas is more about shopping and less about religion
By Blanca Torres
Kristen Deemer of Pleasant Hill said she buys Christmas gifts for others because it makes her feel good. It's fun, she says, to walk among the crowds and do some people-watching at shopping centers.
"I'm Christian, but I'm not particularly motivated by that," she said. "I'm not a huge shopper, but around the holidays, I am."
For Deemer, like many American consumers, the holiday season is more about gifts than about religion. Christian gospels doesn't mention much about shopping, but somehow that has become the nation's premier Christmas tradition.
"The spirit of Christmas, in the minds of some American consumers, has become largely independent of religious connotations and connections," said Daniel Howard, a marketing professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
"Retailers capitalize on how people interpret and how people have been taught to think of the spirit of Christmas -- that people are going to buy for others and people are going to buy for me."
While some conservative groups have called for boycotts of retailers who downplay the religious aspect of Christmas, the move will do little to influence consumers whose motivations to ring up sales have nothing to do with Christ.
Instead, retailers try to shape an ambiance of holiday cheer to inspire consumers to buy extravagant decorations or buy gifts for people, creating a major U.S. economic force. In fact, the holiday season -- the period between November and New Year's Day -- accounts for about 20 percent of the retail industry's annual revenue, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.
"When you think of certain brands, you equate it with certain things," said Andrew Greenberg, president and chief executive of Greenberg Brand Strategy in Berkeley. "When you think of Christmas as a brand, you equate it with gifting."

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