The Simple Life

I watched a video/short film today that really got me thinking again about this whole idea of the commercial side of Christmas.

It started off this morning with an article I read on one of my marketing sites where Patagonia, an outdoor gear apparel retailer was actually discouraging Black Friday shopping with their “Worn Wear” campaign, “a film about the stories we wear.” The short film (click on link for video) is 30 minutes long, and I have to be honest — I couldn’t really relate to the stories, but it did make me think of my brother, Bob — who lives for outdoor adventure. I’m familiar with sustainability and reducing our footprint on this earth, but this video showed me that there are some people who truly live that lifestyle everyday, and take it to an entirely new level than I ever imagined. As does Patagonia — they really embrace the same thinking.

But I could relate to the video. Or I at least tried to put myself in the shoes of the people in these stories, and I realized that part of me simply loved the simple life they led. The simple life. Maybe there’s something to the idea of living a simple, frugal and minimal life on this earth, leaving behind a very small footprint. I thought of Jesus and how his life might have some similarities if he lived on this earth today. As much as I loved the simplicity, I know there’s no way I would ever wear a coat that was taped together, just because it told the stories of where it had been and what it had seen. I guess that goes with the territory — the kind of people that loved the outdoor adventures were the audience for this video.

Yet it still spoke to me. The video is worth watching just for the amazing places these stories take place — that’s a common thread. I tried to imagine myself on top of the mountain I just climbed, hiking along incredible red rock walls, photographing amazing wild animals, cross country skiing in the wilderness or surfing the ocean waves. I wish I had that passion for the adventures of the outdoors. I guess to a small degree I do.

So back to the commercial part of Christmas. While Patagonia is one end of extreme, stores opening on Thanksgiving are the other end of the spectrum. Everyone is fighting for that one sale — to get your money before the competition does, because after all, people are spending less.

Or are they really spending less? I can’t see how they would be — with all the electronics today — $200+ televisions and $400+ iPad Airs. When I was a kid, we got Barbies, Fisher Price play sets, Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, dolls, puzzles, board games and all kinds of crafting things. We were fortunate — we got more than most. But, all of our clothing and toys added up for all of us kids wouldn’t total as much as one HDTV, computer or tablet that kids get today. I think I got a boom box when I was in high school — it was like a $125 purchase — and that was about all I got that year. Oh and I remember a year when I got a Polaroid camera.

Santa/Turkey CartoonSo people aren’t spending less, but they’re only buying a couple big ticket items — and those are the items that retailers want purchased at their stores. And once they get you in their store, you just might do another 75% of your shopping there. That’s a big deal when competition is so steep. So one retailer decides to open on Thanksgiving and then another, and before we knew what hit us — pre-black Friday deals are showing up in our email as early as Monday of the week of Thanksgiving. Most stores are opening at 8:00 pm on turkey day!!! It reminded me of this cute cartoon I seen on Facebook. Wait your turn Santa!

I won’t be shopping on Thanksgiving. I hope everyone else does the same and retailers get the message that we’re not buying it. But chances are, there will be those few who think they have to be out to get the steal of the season. I was talking to a close friend who is the manager of a McDonald’s restaurant. He now has to work on Thanksgiving, and he called it “corporate greed.” They have to be open, because the retailers are open — everyone wants that consumer dollar. It’s really quite ridiculous. It all makes me want to spend less this year.

My husband is laughing at that revelation right now. He knows I’m a shopper. He knows I would never wear a piece of clothing until it fell apart. He knows I like new clothes. But I can say that the Patagonia film really had an impact on me. I thought about it all morning and into this evening. As with anything in life, it’s about finding balance. And for me, simplifying my life has been a goal for the past year. If I take a long, hard look inside, I know that I have to change some of my thinking to reach that goal.

“Maybe Christmas”, he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”
— from How the Grinch Stole Christmas

By the way, the article went on to say that Patagonia’s sales are up 40% since first running variations of this concept since 2011. It’s amazing what happens when retailers do the right thing.

Let me know your thoughts!