A few years ago, when most of the country was in gainful employment, the Toy Show was filled with expensive toys. Now that many have settled into long-term unemployment, or any number of welfare funded schemes by which the government massages the numbers, the Toy Show was filled with unaffordable toys. Unaffordable at least for those families suffering from unemployment, reduced pay and heightened taxation. The income gap is widening in Ireland and it is showing on the retail geography of Dublin. High end shopping areas are chock-a-block with Christmas shoppers because the economic downturn has increased the wealth of high end spenders. In the lowest end it is no longer the case that there are fewer people out Christmas shopping, like last year and the year before; no, now they are completely empty. All of the shops have closed.
Those who would have shopped in the arcades and malls of these locations have had to flit to lower-to-middle ranges of the retail map, and even these streets – with the extra footfall – are not exactly as busy as they were in years past. Of course the government will say in January that Christmas spending in the city was up on last year. It will be. It will have increased on last year because the wealthiest have more money to spend, and they will spend it. For the majority this Christmas will be a quiet Christmas. People will make do with less. On the street where I live there is not a single tree or festive decoration to be seen. Let this be page one in our lesson on social Darwinism.