Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Frenetic Season is in Full Swing

Too skinny Santas ringing bells calling for charity money.  Shoppers rushing with balanced packaged piled to their noses.  Harried clerks trying their best to remain calm and polite.  These are but a few of the sights of the season. 

Now, however, comes an interesting study from the University of Oxford.  It finds  that shops seen to be revelling too much in the festive season risk damaging sales figures by driving away stressed out customers. The study has discovered that overly jolly staff, bright decorations and Yuletide hits like Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody are a turn-off for shoppers.
With stress levels running high amid the pressures of getting everything prepared for Christmas, cheerfully run stores make people less inclined to spend money, the research found.  Faced with exuberant sales assistants or shops holding Christmas celebrations, many customers may even flee empty-handed, the report warns.

Nancy Puccinelli, Associate Fellow at the university’s Saïd Business School, who led the research, said: “In the final days before Christmas many a shopper will be feeling the pressure of the holiday season – with gifts to buy and preparations to make – leading to undue stress.
“The extreme contrast between consumers’ negative feelings and the atmosphere in the store, be it festive decorations, Christmas music or overly enthusiastic staff, actually makes them feel worse and less willing to purchase.

Ms. Puccinelli, an expert in the psychology of marketing, believes her research on how consumer mood affects behaviour could help high street stores boost taking in the run up to Christmas.

The report identifies music as one of the key areas for delicacy, warning that cheesy Christmas hits will no longer cut it with today’s cynical shoppers.

“It isn’t enough to order the Christmas soundtrack (e.g. Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’). Consider classical melodies (e.g. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker) that celebrate the holiday without hitting consumers over the head with the joy they should be experiencing,” the report advises.
In terms of decor, it warns against bright reds and golds in favour of muted blues, silver, and white “which are shown to be more relaxing for the customer."  The report concludes that staff should be encouraged “to be sensitive to the holiday stress of customers” and shops should aim to create “moderately positive retail environments."

So what are we hapless shoppers to do?  The study appears to give us a much needed escape hatch from expectations we know all too well will not occur--not in this lifetime.  All the built up anticipation and longed for nostalgia can go right down the rabbit's hole, and we do not have to follow!  Talk about freedom!

Yeah.  Just try it.  Then watch us all give in to the "old tapes" of our past from which we can never escape.  Nothing else to do but slog on and have a Happy Holiday!


  1. It's too bad that Christmas expectations cause stress in shoppers. Handmade gifts can also be nice and are usually well received. We just have to be cautious about bending to the advertizing hype.
    Merry Christmas to Nancy and all her Readers.

  2. Barbara, You are absolutely right about all the marketing. It causes too much stress and, as the researcher says, can dash hopes of the Season.

    Thanks, as usual, for your spot-on comment!

    Have a wonderful Holiday Season.