Friday 24 November marks this year’s Black Friday, but of course, you already know that.
You know that, because for the past fortnight you’ve been bombarded with advertisements for Black Friday deals that will supposedly provide you and your family with the perfect Christmas. You’ve been told you must “snap up” these deals “before they’re gone”, because acting with caution, or God forbid, slowness, will doom you to certain disaster.
There’s an undeniable sense of urgency around the need to spend this time of year and now, a shopping centre has installed a feature to ramp up the acceleration even further.
Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex is set to open a shopping “fast lane” for Black Friday, so customers in a hurry can dodge the mere mortals who like to take a breath while browsing the festive window displays.
Putting aside the fact that the lane is officially supported by Mastercard - a credit card company that stands to gain from outrageous pre-Christmas spending - the concept has still left me feeling deflated.
Guys, what ever happened to Christmas spirit?
Most of us are brought up with the value that giving is more rewarding than receiving, but it feels like this becomes less and less relevant each year as the Black Friday smog of commercialism descends. We don’t think about who we’re buying for, as long as it’s a bargain, it’ll do, right?
I personally love Christmas shopping - the chilled, old-fashioned kind that doesn’t require hitting more than 3mph. Next Monday I’ve booked a day of annual leave to browse the shelves for the perfect gift for each of my family members. Far from being about spending lots of money I don’t have, my annual tradition is about taking the time to hunt down small, personal trinkets, which will inevitably be wrapped alongside homemade sloe gin or truffles. The day off provides me with a chance to take in the bright lights, the Christmas music and the hot chocolate and, ultimately, to slow down.
Which is why I’m really not a fan of shopping fast lanes.
These lanes may be a temporary measure, but they’re a reflection of a much wider problem in society that persists all year round.
In 2017 rushing has become the norm. Every other email is marked “urgent”, people barge into one another to be first off the tube and if you haven’t got a thousand things crammed into your weekend, who even are you?
The pressure to be constantly moving faster than those around us is turning Britain into a nation of zombies. You only have to look at commuters struggling to keep their eyes open to see we’re in the midst of a burnout epidemic. Turning shopping centres into race tracks is yet another obstacle standing in the way of us slowing down.
I realise I’m in a privileged position being able to take a day off for shopping, because for those out there juggling multiple jobs with childcare, this would never be an option. But as a society, we need to look at solutions to give people more time, not provide ways for our culture to become faster and faster.
We already know shopping centres are overwhelming places for many people and some outlets, including Lakeside, have made great moves to make them more accessible. Just last month it took part in a national “autism hour” that occurred across all Intu-owned shopping centres, to make the venues more approachable for people with autism.
The venues dimmed the lights, calmed the music and slowed down in order to feel less hectic than usual for attendees. While this was undeniably a great initiative, wouldn’t it be better if all shoppers felt welcomed and able to go at their own pace during the 9 ’till 5?
Creating fast lanes in shopping centres is a sure-fire way to divide society and kill Christmas spirit in one go. Next Monday, I’ll be defiant and crawl along the high street in my quest for festive cheer and if you’re exhausted at the thought of Black Friday, I’d recommend doing the same.