Halloween costumes have yet to be picked, but economists are already looking toward the holiday season to lift woes in the retail sector. Unfortunately, the outlook is bleak, according to a report from The Washington Post this week.
“Sales for the November and December period are expected to rise 3 percent during what is traditionally the most critical period of the year for retailers,” reports the Post. “That would be below last year’s 4.1 percent sales growth.” The Post attributes the decline in sales to “uncertain economic conditions, rising gas prices, and high unemployment.”
Yet some are taking shoppers’ caution as an opportunity to reinvent holiday giving.
Newspaper columnist Ron Lieber’s proposal? “A grand alternative that would allow everyone to start the next year with at least one great present and a sense of spiritual uplift.”
Lieber based his reinvention on the alternative gift-giving model of ECHOage.com, a web company started in 2007 by two mothers trying to "stop the madness around children’s birthday parties."
Here’s how it works: Gift-givers send the amount of money they would have spent on a birthday present to ECHOage. The company takes a service fee and then splits the rest of the money – one half goes to a charity chosen by the birthday child; the other half goes to the child, who can buy something he or she really wants.
But when Lieber suggested using the same model for the holidays, the discussion of giving was met with many-a-misgiving. There were outright objections from people unwilling to change the way they’ve exchanged gifts for decades. Others chafed at the imposition of a blanket plan, and some at the "relentless practicality" of the approach.
Tell us what you think: What’s your idea of responsible holiday gift giving? Is it time for a streamlined approach?(A portion of this story was previously published as “Holiday Shopping: When Less is More” on The Responsibility Project on 11/26/08)