All I want for Xmas is…

It’s that time of the year again. It’s the festival of festivals to boost the profits of giant retail stores. The “Spirit of Christmas” demands to be fed with your uber-maxed credit card. “Hark the herald: Buy, buy buy!”

There’s a new desperation to the seasonal message this year. The shoppers are not splurging like they should.

A recent Westpac survey found that consumers would spend 34% less in 2010 than in 2009.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman explained: “This year has been tough for retailers with consumers still suffering from a post-GFC hangover and being very careful about opening their purses and spending on particular items especially clothing, footwear and bigger ticket household items.”

But the retailer companies have a plan to fix this. According to ARA, “retailers are moving away from the traditional strategy of holding post-Christmas sales, with almost 63% of retailers saying they will hold pre-Christmas sales this year, offering discounts of to 30% on top of other promotions such as product giveaways and two-for-one deals.”

Oh cool! We can rush into a shopping centre now and get lots of stuff that no one really needs. And hey, we can put it all on the card further lifting Australian total credit card debt beyond $50 billion.

Outstanding credit card loans have grown 16% in the past three years to $47.6 billion. $35.1 billion of this debt is accumulating interest and the banks are raising credit card interest rates, even though the average standard credit card interest rate is 19.6%.

In June this year, the Melbourne Institute reported that credit card had overtook home mortgages as the biggest part of household debt.

But debt makes the world go round right? It seems to have kept CEO pay rocketting on despite the GFC. So why should ordinary folk worry? According to Annette Sampson in the November 27 Sydney Morning Herald: “After falling during the GFC, household debt has kicked back up again in Australia, to about 160% of disposable incomes, which is higher than US levels of about 120%”.

Don’t anyone mention “Ireland”…

If I’ve got you mad about Xmas shopping. Here is a way out: Give your friends and family something that’s useful and helps us build an alternative to this capitalist shop-till-you-drop madness. Give them a subscription to Green Left Weekly!

Building the subscription base is the best way to make sure that Green Left Weekly keeps going. Readers of the column know how hard it is to keep a project like this afloat. Each week I have reported on the struggle to reach our $300,000 annual fighting fund target. As of the end of November we’ve raised $205,114. We received $11,347 in the last week. Thank you! Now we are into the final stretch.

It won’t be easy but every new subscriber is a regular reader who may end up contributing in more ways than one to the Green Left project. The loyalty of our subscribers is a wondersful thing we’d be in deep trouble without you. If you can help us grow our subscriber base you’ll be making a great contribution.

You can phone in a gift subscription to Green Left Weekly or a donation on the toll-free line on 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

Donations or subscriptions can be made online at, or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, account no. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007.

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