Will stores look to pester power to rake in the pounds?

According to a survey, parents these days spend more on their offspring than ever before. Where's the Ghost of Christmas Future when you need it...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
If you’ve got kids of a certain age, then talk of King Zhu Ninja Warriors and their sworn enemies – the Kung Zhu Special Forces (natch) will have been going around your house for some time now. The battling hamsters are at the top of kids’ wish lists this Christmas and, at £13, are relatively affordable. But a new survey has shown that parents are feeling the strain when it comes to keeping their brood happy over Christmas, and some are even willing to go into debt for it. Is that the faint cackle of the Grinch we hear in the distance?

The survey, by Netmums and Saga, shows that pester power looks to be the weapon of choice for retailers squeezed by recession: while today’s parents feel they need to make sure their offspring get everything on their list (the total cost of which could, on average, put the Irish bailout to shame), parents from days gone by tended to put more of an emphasis on the family side of the festive period. So while 61% of those under 80 said they spent less than £50 at Christmas, the majority of parents in their 40s, 30s, 20s or teens are more likely to spend between £100-£200. Although presumably most teenage parents can’t be much above the age where they assume Santa will foot most of the bill...

And if our spending has changed, our attitudes have, too. The majority of parents (even the young ‘uns) feel they’re under pressure from advertisers to buy their kids presents they can’t afford. While 65% of those in their 70s are wagging their fingers at marketing people, 52% of those born in their 20s and more than a third of those in their teens also feel bullied by ad men.

But modern parents are also willing to make sacrifices. 20% of under-20s and under-30s said they’d been saving for Christmas all year, while 63% of under-20s, 58% of under-30s and 41% of under-40s said they were willing to go without  to make sure their children experienced Christmas in all its glory. Slightly more worryingly, 11% of those in their 20s, and 10% of those in their 40s said they’d also be willing to go into debt just so their kids can get what they want. Presumably they haven’t taken into account that that debt will last a lot longer than the little darling’s interest in whatever they unwrap on Christmas day…

Still, it looks like retailers could do with all the pester power they can get: last week, the Office of National Statistics released a report showing sales during Octobers had grown at a ‘decent but unspectacular’ level, with 36% of manufacturers saying orders are ‘below usual’. That said, online businesses are doing better: yesterday, the online shopping season got into full swing, with a survey showing people were expected to spend £537m online. Apparently this year 17p in every pound will be spent online.

Hmm. Wonder if Santa offers debt consolidation services?

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