Will Hard Times Mean an Old Fashioned Christmas? Not Likely.

Dec 22

If ever there was an excuse to be Scrooge during Christmas, this year’s recession is it.¬† While Stephen Harper’s government (at the proverbial gunpoint of its opposition forces) shops for a pricey stimulus package that will placate the panicked cries of financial doomsayers, regular Canadian folk are left figuring out how to make fewer dollars stretch enough to cover the tree, the turkey and the kiddie gifts.¬† It seems inevitable that dickensian scenes be played out in homes across North America – less electronic games with animations that lull hyper tots into hypnotic states, more old-fashioned books with words on pages to fill young minds with tales of fancy.¬† Families will gather ‚Äòround the hearth singing carols between bites of bonbons and Father will read some C.S. Lewis (perhaps as he puffs on a pipe.)¬† Ah yes, recessions will teach us the merits of old-time family values as more of us eschew the digital-laced holiday (maximum two players!)¬† Well, better hold off on the Christmas pudding.

The latest figures on video game sales indicate that Canadians are set to spend more than $2 billion on video games in 2008.  According to the NPD Group, national sales on hardware, software and accessories were $1.6 billion through November Рa 36% increase from the same period in 2007.  So what gives?  While the government faces a coup from its opposition on the basis of the suffering Canadian masses, who they say are crippled by economic ruin, parents are racing to Best Buy and Toys R Us to get the Wii.  In fact, Nintendo Wii sales are up by 40% this November as compared to the same month last year. 

And as for family time by the hearth?¬† Most families will be lucky to fit in a game of Scrabble as their kids vie for a turn at “Gears of War 2″ (the highest in game sales, followed by “Call of Duty: World at War”.) ¬†Nothing like a good ol’ game of shoot to kill just before dinner.¬† And, what is for dinner anyhow?¬† With less money to spend, perhaps it’s the turkey that families have sacrificed for a tin of ham.¬† Certainly, books haven’t become the cost-conscious alternative to the pricier electronics.¬†

According to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks book sales for 75% of the U.S. retail book market, sales of books are down by 7%, as compared to last year.  The biggest dip has been in adult nonfiction, while incredibly, juvenile fiction has shown a 24% increase in sales this year over last.  The bad news is that parents seem willing to forgo their own intellectual growth, but the good news is that kids will be unwrapping books alongside their Wii. 

My own children will be receiving one new DS Nintendo game each (cost: $80) and a total of about ten books (cost: $160).¬† The Wii was top on their wish list, but I quickly lowered, I mean managed, their expectations by explaining that they will NOT see that particular¬†present under the tree this year (and, no, Santa does not give Nintendo Wii’s for Christmas.)¬† So – based on my sales figures, books are twice as important as video games – whether my kids will spend twice as much time turning pages on Christmas morn as they will clicking their DS games is, hmmm, unlikely, at best.¬† But – we will find time to play Scrabble (Junior.)


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One comment

  1. kevin /

    I was out on boxing week, and to my surprise, it was as busy as any boxing week in memory. I felt like I was shopping in the middle of a booming economy for a few minutes! It is strange that this struggling global economy has not slowed the purchasing of flat panel TV’s for instance, and that other luxuries still fly out the doors of specialty shops.
    I must say though, that from my observations, the luxuries are becoming a necessity because they allow us to spend the money paid out at movies on cheap microwave popcorn at home, in front of a dazzling display.

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