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The Price of Consumerism.

An expensive Mall in a posh locality of Karachi organised a three-day shopping festival in May to celebrate Mother's Day. Surprisingly, though situated in an upscale neighbourhood of the city, the shopping centre was mostly crowded by customers from middle and lower middle class localities. According to a rough estimate, consumption of goods and food crossed Rs 50 million. Economists say that this trend can safely be termed as a great success of the western culture-ideology of consumerism which could be witnessed all around the mall which glorifies compulsive shopping --- a dangerous phenomenon. It is time to treat the shopaholic like any other addict

Said the General Manager Marketing of the mall:

"A mother is the most important person in anyone's life; we bring such events to life for our customers as we want to give families memorable moments at their favourite mall. This mall is for everyone and we take pride in paying tribute to mothers who are an integral part of our legacy of convenience. The mall dubbed mothers as 'The Mall Moms.' They received a number of value-added giveaways, incentives and treats from their favourite local and international brands hosted in the mall with state-of-the-art facilities and service.

Way back in 1955, economist Victor Lebow stated, "Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption." Needless to emphasise that the massive advertisements by different brands on Mother's Day in the mall turned out to be a big bonanza for them and as one of the salesman put it 'what the retailers have earned in these three days they could not earn even in three months.'

If we add up the money spent on the pomp and show at the mall by the country's leading brands, the unprecedented sale at the food court, various ice cream parlours and coffee outlets, the economic activity during the three days safely touched the figure of more or less Rs100 million - an economic activity which can be termed as phenomenal by any standards. People rushed to buy products and ended up spending money with their credit cards, locking themselves into the financial system of capitalist globalization.

Though Pakistan is centuries behind the developed countries of the world in economic development, it i fast catching up with them in spending more money on gifts on Mother's Day than any other occasion, of course, except Eid-ul-Fitr followed by Valentine's Day. The main reason for attracting buyers from middle and lower-middle classes was of course the massive publicity of discounts on almost all items available in the mall. Sales promotions are being used generally at festivals as a tactical measure and part of an overall plan and not as an end itself. Unfortunately, in Pakistan during Eidul Fitr, instead of launching promotional sales, the shops increase prices drastically as they know that consumers have no choice but to buy at any cost.

Consumer culture is a form of capitalism in which the economy is focused on the selling of consumer goods and the spending of consumer money. Businesses, large and small, capitalise on this phenomenon by focusing their marketing on this culture. Unfortunately, there seems to be a rat race among our middle class to copy the lifestyle of the affluent society. Go to any shop selling foreign brands in any mall for that matter and you will find the place thronged by the middle class. The US National Retail Federation says Americans spent more than $18.6 billion on gifts for mom, including $2.2 billion just for flowers. Meals comprised $3.4 billion of the tab. It is interesting to note that Pakistan is fast catching up with the west in shopping sprees during such festivals.

The emerging culture of brand consciousness in our society, especially in the lower middle class, has given an unparallel boost to consumerism. Banks have taken full advantage of the cultural change and come out with incentives on getting a credit card and discounts on buying items from designated stores and outlets through their credit card. This, in fact, has adversely affected the domestic budget of every middle and lower middle class family. The emergence of consumerism is threatening our moral values which is a dangerous phenomenon. The sorry rise of consumerism is not very old in Pakistan. If memories of all those now in their late sixties can be relied upon, terms like brand consciousness and consumerism were simply unknown.

One of the major beneficiaries of consumerism are banks which are issuing credit cards indiscriminately. They're hiking interest rates in the name of financial charges to an extent that it results in frustration among the credit card holders. It is time for the State Bank to do something for the customers who are already cash-strapped and credit-crunched. There is a need to prepare a policy which restricts banks from issuing credit cards indiscriminately, billing exorbitant financial charges and threatening customers as this has even resulted in suicides.

William Rees, an urban planner at the University of British Columbia, very rightly said, "Our consumption of goods obviously is a function of our culture. Only by producing and selling things and services does capitalism in its present form work, and the more that is produced and the more that is purchased the more we will progress and prosper."
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Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Aug 31, 2017
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