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Christmas shopping – can be done online, but still stressful

Christmas shopping – can be done online, but still stressful and difficult says UC expert
 
November 25, 2012
 
As Christmas approaches, more people are turning to online shopping when it comes to buying gifts but not in all purchase areas, University of Canterbury (UC) Associate Professor Paul Ballantine said today.
 
Generic items like books and toys did not really need to be experienced before they are bought. But he said not all items were bought online to the same degree. Some products often needed to be experienced or inspected before they are bought.
 
``Specialist items like jewellery still largely need to be bought from traditional bricks-and-mortar stores. But generally online Christmas shopping  allows people to save time and money and it often means they have a larger range of options to choose from, while also not having to worry whether something they are after is in stock or not. However, not all items are bought online to the same degree.
 
``Christmas gift buying often isn’t an enjoyable experience. Gift-giving is a cause of stress for many people and is sometimes seen as something which has to be endured. People often want to buy a gift that is going to be liked, although they are sometimes pessimistic about their chances of success in doing this.
 
``With more and more people now resorting to offloading their unwanted Christmas presents through avenues such as TradeMe or re-gifting them on to other people, we are bombarded by evidence that gift-giving isn’t always that successful. This just increases the feeling for some that they will get it wrong.’’
 
With gift-giving often being so difficult, many people used avoidance strategies or purchase gifts that could be considered generic, such as a bottle of wine or chocolates, he said. Gift shopping was also viewed by many people as being work, rather than being a pleasurable experience.
 
In part, this was due to gift-giving being an expectation at this time of year, which created a sense of social obligation, as the giving of gifts was a requirement to participate in some social events. The worst of these was secret Santas, where people often don’t know who they’re buying for, but they just needed to buy something.
 
``Money has long been a common gift and vouchers have also become increasingly popular with time. It allows a gift recipient to choose something they actually want, although at the same time money and vouchers are viewed by some as being an easy gift that didn’t require a lot of thought on the part of the giver.
 
``Experiential gifts have also become increasingly popular. So, rather than buying something physical, events such as driving a racing car or hot air balloon rides, can be considered unique experiences that someone wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves.
 
``Gifts can also send the wrong message and can sometimes be damaging for a relationship. Giving a vacuum cleaner or a new set of saucepans to someone you love at Christmas, for example, often isn’t going to be well received. Research has shown that the feeling of being less similar to a partner after receiving a bad gift leads to strong negative perceptions about the future of the relationship itself.
 
``For those people you are socially close to, gift buying typically carries an expectation that the recipient of the gift will feel as though the giver understands their tastes, wants and preferences.
We also know that some people are easier to buy gifts for than others.’’
 
Where there was a sense of obligation for those people on the fringes of our social networks, they often resorted to buying gifts which could be considered token gifts. It fulfilled an obligation, but often did little to recognise the tastes or preferences of the person the gift was being given to.
 
Professor Ballantine is UC’s Head of Management and has carried out a considerable amount of research in retailing.
 
ENDS

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