I am a purist at Christmas, a curmudgeon in the face of crass commercialism. But I am also in love with digital devices that are upending trends in mass media more profoundly than during the last Christmas of the 20th century. During the dotcom boom, people pronounced the beginning of the end for paper catalogs, print magazines, and creative retail store displays. Their prognosis was premature, but we are witnessing a wholesale shift where digital consumption and communication now fulfills the promises of 1999. The earth shook loudly in 2011, quite literally in the form of a record breaking earthquake in the city, and the tech world is the game changer for a Philadelphia Christmas.
Shopping trends for the 2011 holiday season
We round the corner to November, and retail stores from Old City to Belle Vista are bracing for a 2011 holiday season that will set records for Santa’s use of gift transport by proxies. The good natured delivery people of UPS, Fed Ex, and the UPS will bring gifts via Ecommerce workshops in the basements of amazon.com. Brick and mortar seller Brickbat Books on South 4th Street will compete with beautiful first edition books, but also rely on a captivating blog to take orders via email. The game changer is Amazon Kindle Fire, which in turn will compete with both. My guess is the Fire will be the best selling item over $199 on lists.
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Social media trends indicate stores are more beholden to consumers than ever. To find what people are saying about the hottest Christmas product, just search Twitter and use a Philadelphia city filter. Some hot Christmas gifts, like the iPhone 4S, may become trending topics on Twitter, further amplifying their buzz factor. Google Places is now giving users the unprecedented ability to influence online reputation, and business owners need to stay connected to respond to factual and subjective input on the Web. For online shopping over a coffee, first time visitors to Old City Coffee will want to know about the cafe’s wireless availability, and perhaps how readily available outlets are for plugging in laptops. Many will rely on local reviews from the neighborhood over what an employee says on the phone.
Philadelphia Christmas: tradition versus commerce
If we need an event like Christmas to rally around the technology flagpole, so be it. I would prefer to see shoppers embrace technology at times other than one which was historically not filled with material consumption. A market economy seems to require a flagpole which can hoist the symbol of a collective experience rivaling none. If not Christmas, what would push people in Liberty Heights off the fence to embrace a digital world more fully: New Years, Easter, 4th of July, or perhaps the celebration of Columbus, the man who discovered the New World?