What is Consumerism?
Consumerism is an economic policy that states that the market is shaped by the choice of the consumers. It outlines the fundamental rights of the consumers including right to safety, right to choice and right to information. Consumerism is a phenomenon that has existed since the earliest of civilizations and continues to shape the modern market.
Consumerism basically describes the inclinations and tendencies of consumers towards various products and brands. This is mainly shaped by what the people perceive as a status symbol. For instance, if a car is advertised as a luxury vehicle, then consumers will tend to buy it simply for the status it seems to offer. It is the same with designer labels in the clothing industry. The concept involves proper marketing of various products so that it appeals to a particular group of consumers.
What are Factors that Promote Consumerism?
In Canada, income disparity is less with the wealth more or less equally divided. This means that status struggles are not as bad here as the rest of the world. Also consumerism has been found to be less in Canada with people opting to buy products that they need rather than what is important for status although it is difficult to make a generalized statement.
There are four factors that drive consumerism in today's society: easy access to consumer credit, aggressive and intrusive advertising, lack of financial education, and a shift in personal values. This is according to startingovertoronto
The most prominent is Easy Access to Consumer Credit. Why is it so easy to get a credit card? Because credit card companies make a lot of money from interest revenue and credit card fees. With this type of profitability, it is in their interest to issue as many credit cards as they can.
What are the Effects of Consumerism?
In a market that is largely capitalistic in nature, sellers aim to increase their sales by using proper advertising campaigns. Also in such a society, the sellers try not to fulfill the wishes of the buyers completely so that they keep coming back for more. This is done by making products with a short shelf life or limited usability.
An article entitled, Soaring Canadian Debt Credited to Consumerism revealed that Canadian household debt has reached a record high and is among the highest in developed countries. Compared to twenty years ago, Canadians now spend two and a half times more on goods and services. It is reported that in the eighties, most Canadians saved 20 percent of their disposable income. Today, those savings have dived under one percent. Canadians are ranked first in debt-to-asset ratio according to Certified General Accountants (CGA) Association of Canada report. Slovak Republic, Greece and the U.S. were behind respectively. The report states that "it is clear that Canadian households rely much more heavily on consumer credit than their counterparts in other countries."
What are Current Trends in Consumerism?
Consumerism is now based on values and globalization. The Office of Consumer Affairs ic.gc.ca
says that the “growth of international trade in goods has, in part, also spurred the emergence of values-based consumerism. Many consumers now want to know not only what they are buying, but also how it was made. Concerns about environmental protection, health risks, the nutritional content of food, animal welfare and exploitative labour practices have led to a growing market demand for products, many imported from the Third World, that are produced according to certain values-based standards. Examples include “fair trade” coffee, wood and paper products from sustainable forests, organic food, and clothing and footwear manufactured in “fair wage” factories.”
It has now become common practice to make such products that are designed especially to break after a fixed amount of time thus requiring the consumers to invest more in them. Another practice that sellers in such societies use is to constantly keep updating the market with newer models that seem more fashionable thanks to proper advertising. In this way they can exploit consumerism to get the maximum possible profits.
Many critics claim that overexploitation of consumerism has lead to economic degradation, increase in debts and even stops progress in many cases. Many environmentalists have also blamed consumerism for the degradation of the environment. Over consumption and wastage of products have led to dwindling of natural resources that has in turn sparked off a huge array of problems for the earth’s natural environment.
Summing up Consumerism
Consumerism in most countries increased mainly due to industrial revolution. This led to the development of luxury products that have become status symbols. Also, some of these products such as clothes tend to go out of fashion very soon and therefore they are underused and a waste. This has led to many socio-economic as well as environmental problems. Consumerism has seen a small decline in the recent years largely thanks to widespread education of the consumers. However, markets still continue to flourish with buys overindulging themselves. It is a practice that consumers will continue to practice unless they are given some incentive to stop.