While news reports might lead us to believe otherwise, the Christmas shopping season did not come and go with Black Friday Eve, Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday.Sure, they have catchy names designed to lend some sort of procurement importance to them. Who, after all, could ignore a day dubbed "Black Friday" without worrying that is has something to do with the bubonic plague or a stock-market crash?
And sure, we all know relatives or neighbors who are boasting about already having completed their Christmas shopping. Who, after all, can listen to such braggadocio without cringing a little on the inside?
Yet while the days designated for Americans to kneel at the altar of consumerism have passed, we're pretty sure that the shopping will continue. Our calendar on the wall — an antiquated notion in the age of desktop computers and smartphones — tells us that Christmas doesn't actually arrive until one month from today. That leaves plenty of time to engage in the national pastime that is shopping.
That is a good thing. While we might go out of our way to throw a few barbs at the notion of "Black Friday," we are not so Grinch-like as to mock the Christmas shopping season. As endlessly noted during the recent presidential election, the economy is of vital concern to Americans of all political persuasions. Spending money, while it might not be good for your personal bank account, is good for the economy.
The National Retail Federation — motto: "Retail Means Jobs" — expects holiday sales this year to rise 4.1 percent from last year to $586.1 billion. According to Forrester Research, online spending through the holiday season is expected to increase 15 percent to $68.4 billion.
Those are good signs that consumers have confidence in the economy, which still is struggling to recover from The Great Recession. As long as buyers aren't following the lead of the federal government and engaging in deficit spending, the exchange of money for goods is a boon to the nation's finances.
In Washington, that spending can be particularly important. Not only can you help private businesses, but you can assist the state's bottom line, as revenue for Washington's state and local governments is largely driven by sales tax. The temptation for Southwest Washington shoppers is to cross the Columbia River in order to avoid paying sales tax, but we urge residents to consider keeping that revenue on this side of the river when possible. Oregon businesses do nothing to help pave your roads or support your public schools.
We also urge shoppers to reflect the meaning of the season by contributing to those who are less fortunate. Find a flat-screen for $50 less than you were planning to pay? Why not take that savings and contribute to one of the many social services that can be found in Clark County? Everybody is trying to stretch their dollars at this time of year, but it is important to be mindful that some have more dollars to stretch than others.
Finally, we urge consumers to be considerate of others when they are in the trenches grappling for the last pair of specially priced size-6 fashion boots. Everybody wants a bargain, but the Christmas season is as good a time as any to practice The Golden Rule.
And don't worry if you missed out on some unbeatable bargains on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday. Monday, after all, has been designated Cyber Monday for shopping online.