Economics of Christmas

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"Christmas shopping" redirects here. For the album by Buck Owens, see Christmas Shopping (album).
Christmas market in Jena, Germany

The economics of Christmas is significant because Christmas is typically a peak selling season for retailers in many nations around the world. Sales increase dramatically as people purchase gifts, decorations, and supplies to celebrate. In the U.S., the "Christmas shopping season" starts as early as October.[1][2] In Canada, merchants begin advertising campaigns just before Halloween (October 31), and step up their marketing following Remembrance Day on November 11. In the UK and Ireland, the Christmas shopping season starts from mid November, around the time when high street Christmas lights are turned on.[3][4] In the United States, it has been calculated that a quarter of all personal spending takes place during the Christmas/holiday shopping season.[5] Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that expenditure in department stores nationwide rose from $20.8 billion in November 2004 to $31.9 billion in December 2004, an increase of 54 percent. In other sectors, the pre-Christmas increase in spending was even greater, there being a November–December buying surge of 100 percent in bookstores and 170 percent in jewelry stores. In the same year employment in American retail stores rose from 1.6 million to 1.8 million in the two months leading up to Christmas.[6] Industries completely dependent on Christmas include Christmas cards, of which 1.9 billion are sent in the United States each year, and live Christmas Trees, of which 20.8 million were cut in the U.S. in 2002.[7] In the UK in 2010, up to £8 billion was expected to be spent online at Christmas, approximately a quarter of total retail festive sales.[4]

Each year (most notably 2000) money supply in US banks is increased for Christmas shopping.

In most Western nations, Christmas Day is the least active day of the year for business and commerce; almost all retail, commercial and institutional businesses are closed, and almost all industries cease activity (more than any other day of the year), whether laws require such or not. In England and Wales, the Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 prevents all large shops from trading on Christmas Day. Scotland is currently planning similar legislation. Film studios release many high-budget movies during the holiday season, including Christmas films, fantasy movies or high-tone dramas with high production values to hopes of maximizing the chance of nominations for the Academy Awards.

One economist's analysis calculates that, despite increased overall spending, Christmas is a deadweight loss under orthodox microeconomic theory, because of the effect of gift-giving. This loss is calculated as the difference between what the gift giver spent on the item and what the gift receiver would have paid for the item. It is estimated that in 2001, Christmas resulted in a $4 billion deadweight loss in the U.S. alone.[8][9] Because of complicating factors, this analysis is sometimes used to discuss possible flaws in current microeconomic theory. Other deadweight losses include the effects of Christmas on the environment and the fact that material gifts are often perceived as white elephants, imposing cost for upkeep and storage and contributing to clutter.[10]

Preparation[edit]

Christmas club[edit]

Main article: Christmas club

Christmas clubs are savings programs, the first of which were offered by various banks in the United States during the Great Depression. The concept is that bank customers deposit a set amount of money each week into a special savings account, and receive the money back at the end of the year for Christmas shopping. For decades, financial institutions competed for the holiday savings business, offering enticing premiums and advertising items such as tokens. The Dime Saving Bank of Toledo, Ohio, issued a brass token "good for 25 cents in opening a Christmas account" for 1922-1923. There were also numbered tokens issued by the Atlantic Country Trust Co. in Atlantic City, New Jersey, inscribed on the reverse: "Join our Christmas Club and Have Money When You Need It Most." In the February 2006 issue of Forbes magazine, business writer James Surowiecki summarized the accounts' appeal: "The popularity of Christmas club accounts isn't a mystery; if their money was in a regular account, people assumed they'd spend it."[11]

Sears Wish Book[edit]

Main article: Sears Wish Book

The Sears Wish Book is a popular Christmas-gift catalog released by Sears Holdings Corporation, annually in September. The catalog contains toys and other holiday-related merchandise. The first Sears Wish Book was printed in 1933, [12] and was a separate big-book catalog from the annual Sears Christmas catalog. In the 2007 edition of the catalog, half of the total number of pages was devoted to Christmas toys and the remainder focused on other store items including appliances, tools, clothes and jewelry. [13]

Commencement[edit]

Christmas creep[edit]

Main article: Christmas creep

Christmas creep is a merchandising phenomenon in which merchants and retailers exploit the commercialized status of Christmas by moving up the start of the holiday shopping season.[14] The term was first used in the mid-1980s.[15] It is associated with a desire of merchants to take advantage of particularly heavy Christmas-related shopping well before Black Friday in the United States and before Halloween in Canada. The term is not used in the UK and Ireland, where retailers call Christmas the "golden quarter", that is, the three months of October through December is the quarter of the year in which the retail industry hopes to make the most profit.[16] It can apply for other holidays as well, notably Valentine's Day, Easter and Mother's Day. The motivation for holiday creep is for retailers to lengthen their selling interval for seasonal merchandise in order to maximize profit and to give early-bird shoppers a head start on that holiday. However, it is not clear that this practice has been consistently beneficial for retailers.[17]

United States[edit]

A crowded shopping center on Black Friday

Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States (the fourth Thursday of November), often regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. In recent years, most major retailers have opened extremely early and offered promotional sales to kick off the holiday shopping season, similar to Boxing Day sales in many Commonwealth nations. Black Friday is not a holiday, but California and some other states observe "The Day After Thanksgiving" as a holiday for state government employees, sometimes in lieu of another federal holiday such as Columbus Day.[18] Many non-retail employees and schools have both Thanksgiving and the day after off, followed by a weekend, thereby increasing the number of potential shoppers. It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005,[19] although news reports, which at that time were inaccurate,[20] have described it as the busiest shopping day of the year for a much longer period of time.[21]

Mexico[edit]

Main article: El Buen Fin

El Buen Fin is an annual nationwide shopping event in Mexico, in existence since 2011 and taking place on the third weekend of November in Mexico, and the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this weekend, major retailers extend their store hours[22] and offer special promotions, including extended credit terms and price promotions. The purpose of this weekend is to revive the economy by encouraging consumption[23] and improve the quality of life of all Mexican families by implementing promotions and discounts in the prices of various products. It was inspired by the American celebration, Black Friday and emerged as an initiative of Council of Business Coordination,[24] in association with the federal government and private sector organizations.

Duration[edit]

Christmas market[edit]

Main article: Christmas market
Christmas market in Jena, Germany

A Christmas market is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. These markets originated in Germany, Austria, South Tyrol, North Italy and many French regions such as Alsace, Lorraine, Savoy,[25] but are now being held in many other countries. The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe and in many parts of the former Holy Roman Empire that includes many eastern region of France and Switzerland. Dresden's Strietzelmarkt was first held in 1434. The Christmas markets of Bautzen (first held in 1384),[26] Frankfurt (first mentioned in 1393) and Munich (1310) were even older. The Vienna "December market" was a kind of forerunner of the Christmas market and dates back to 1294.[27]

Christmas Price Index[edit]

Main article: Christmas Price Index

The Christmas Price Index is a tongue-in-cheek economic indicator, maintained by the U.S. bank PNC Wealth Management, which tracks the cost of the items in the carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas".[28][29] PNC compiles both a "Christmas Price Index" and "The True Cost of Christmas." The "Christmas Price Index" is calculated by adding the cost of the items in the song. The "True Cost of Christmas," however, is calculated by buying a partridge in a pear tree on each of the twelve days, buying two turtle doves from the second day onward, for a total of 22 turtle doves, etc., for the complete set of 364 items.[30]

Conclusion[edit]

United States[edit]

Main article: Super Saturday

Super Saturday is the last Saturday before Christmas, a major day of revenue for American retailers, marking the end of the shopping season they and many customers believe begins on Black Friday. Super Saturday targets last-minute shoppers. Typically the day is ridden with one-day sales in an effort to accrue more revenue than any other day in the Christmas and holiday season.[31]

Christmas Day[edit]

Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004[edit]

The Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 (c 26) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It prevents shops over 280 m²/3,000 sq ft from opening on Christmas Day in England and Wales. Shops smaller than the limit are not affected. The Act was introduced to the House of Commons by Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham as a Private Member's Bill on 7 January 2004. The aim of the Act was to keep Christmas Day a "special" day, whereby all major retailers would be closed. Although it was traditional for major retailers to close on 25 December, some retailers, such as Woolworths, began to open some stores in the late 1990s. Both religious groups and shop worker unions were against the idea of Christmas openings, leading to pressure on the Government to pass legislation to prevent the practice. In 2006, the Scottish Parliament debated a similar law that would apply to shops in Scotland. The law was enacted in 2007 and it contained special provisions for New Year's Day retail activities too.[32]

Criticism[edit]

Buy Nothing Christmas[edit]

Main article: Buy Nothing Christmas

Buy Nothing Christmas is an ongoing protest and reaction to the commercialization of the North American Christmas season. It started unofficially in 1968, when Ellie Clark and her family decided to publicly disregard the commercial aspects of the Christmas holiday.[33] Contemporarily a movement was created to extend Adbusters' Buy Nothing Day into the entire Christmas season.[33] Buy Nothing Christmas first became official in 2001 when a small group of Canadian Mennonites created a website and gave the movement a name.[34]

Buy Nothing Day[edit]

Main article: Buy Nothing Day

Buy Nothing Day is an international day of protest against consumerism. In North America, Buy Nothing Day is held the Friday after U.S. Thanksgiving (November 29, 2013; November 28, 2014; November 27, 2015; November 25, 2016); elsewhere, it is held the following day, which is the last Saturday in November.[35][36] Buy Nothing Day was founded in Vancouver by artist Ted Dave[37] and subsequently promoted by Adbusters magazine,[38] based in Canada. The first Buy Nothing Day was organized in Canada in September 1992 "as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption." In 1997, it was moved to the Friday after American Thanksgiving, also called "Black Friday", which is one of the ten busiest shopping days in the United States. In 2000, advertisements by Adbusters promoting Buy Nothing Day were denied advertising time by almost all major television networks except for CNN.[35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Varga, Melody. "Black Friday[dead link], About:Retail Industry.
  2. ^ "Definition Christmas Creep – What is Christmas Creep". Womeninbusiness.about.com. 2010-11-02. Retrieved 2011-02-24. 
  3. ^ South Molton and Brook Street Christmas Lights (Tuesday November 16, 2010) View London.co.uk
  4. ^ a b Julia Kollewe Monday (November 29, 2010) West End spree worth £250m marks start of Christmas shopping season The Guardian
  5. ^ Gwen Outen (2004-12-03). "ECONOMICS REPORT – Holiday Shopping Season in the U.S.". Voice Of America. [dead link]
  6. ^ US Census Bureau. "Facts. The Holiday Season"[dead link] December 19, 2005. (accessed 2009-11-30)
  7. ^ US Census 2005
  8. ^ "The Deadweight Loss of Christmas", American Economic Review, December 1993, 83 (5)
  9. ^ "Is Santa a deadweight loss?" The Economist December 20, 2001
  10. ^ Reuters. "Christmas is Damaging the Environment, Report Says" December 16, 2005.
  11. ^ Surowiecki, James. “Bitter Money and Christmas Clubs.” Forbes.com. Feb. 14, 2006.
  12. ^ History of the Sears Catalog
  13. ^ Sears Wish Book Makes a Return
  14. ^ Siewers, Alf (November 25, 1987). "He's well-suited to enjoying life of Santa". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 26, 2007. "And so does the culture, with a commercializing of himself that Santa deplores even as he has watched the holiday season creep back to Labor Day." 
  15. ^ Maxwell, Kerry (September 18, 2006). "Macmillan English Dictionary Word Of The Week Archive – "Christmas creep"". New Words. Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved December 26, 2007. "The term Christmas creep was first used in the mid-eighties, though gained wider recognition more recently, possibly due to subsequent coinage of the expression mission creep." 
  16. ^ Zoe Wood (Tuesday December 21, 2010) Snow chaos raises fears for Christmas dinners minus the trimmings The Guardian
  17. ^ "Christmas Creep: The Shopping Season Is Longer, but Is It Better?". Knowledge@Wharton. Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. March 1, 2006. Retrieved December 27, 2007. "... Wharton marketing scholars and other analysts say an extended Christmas season is something of a mixed bag. It may hold advantages, disadvantages — or even no advantages — for store owners." 
  18. ^ "Pima County in Arizona Replaces Columbus Day with Black Friday". BestBlackFriday.com. 2013‐09. 
  19. ^ International Council of Shopping Centers. "Holiday Watch: Media Guide 2006 Holiday Facts and Figure" (PDF). ; ShopperTrak, Press Release, ShopperTrak Reports Positive Response to Early Holiday Promotions Boosts Projections for 2010 Holiday Season at the Wayback Machine (archived November 29, 2010) (November 16, 2010).
  20. ^ International Council of Shopping Centers. "Daily Sales Comparison Top Ten Holiday Shopping Days (1996–2001)" (PDF). 
  21. ^ E.g., Albert R. Karr, "Downtown Firms Aid Transit Systems To Promote Sales and Build Good Will," Wall St. J., p. 6 (November 26, 1982); Associated Press, "Holiday Shoppers Jam U.S. Stores," The New York Times, p. 30 (November 28, 1981).
  22. ^ http://www.excelsior.com.mx/node/784759
  23. ^ Deals or Debt? Mexico’s Controversial Black Friday Retrieved 26 June 2013
  24. ^ Mexico Introduces its own version of ‘Black Friday’ – style shopping blitz Retrieved 26 June 2013
  25. ^ http://noel.org
  26. ^ Bautzen Christmas Market
  27. ^ About Christmas Markets
  28. ^ Spinner, Jackie (December 20, 2007). "Two Turtledoves, My Love; But Maids-a-Milking? Gone. Whole List? Money Doesn't Grow on Pear Trees". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  29. ^ Olson, Elizabeth (2007-12-20). "The '12 Days' Index Shows a Record Increase". The New York Times. 
  30. ^ Gaffen, David (January 5, 2007). "That's One Expensive Song". Marketbeast (The Wall Street Journal). Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  31. ^ Nick Natario. "Holiday Shoppers Pack Stores on Super Saturday". WETM TV. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  32. ^ Christmas Day and New Year’s Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007 Accessed January 21, 2013
  33. ^ a b http://www.buynothingchristmas.org/about/index.html
  34. ^ Priesnitz, Wendy. "A Buy Nothing Christmas." Natural Life Magazine, November/December 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2008.
  35. ^ a b "Buy Nothing Day"The Guardian.co.uk
  36. ^ "Buy Nothing Day"Adbusters.org
  37. ^ Crook, Barbara. "Can you say bye to buying 1 day a year?" The Vancouver Sun. September 25, 1992.
  38. ^ Click Here to Buy Nothing. Joanna Glasner. Wired, Nov 22, 2000.