Why Christmas should always be on a weekend
Tyler Cowen thinks Christmas should always fall on a Wednesday, as it did in 2013. “The goal,” he writes tongue-in-cheek, “is to minimize non-convexities”. For Cowen personally, that means maximizing mail delivery, library access, paid vacation, traffic-free roads to optimize shopping, and trips to far-flung ethnic restaurants.
My response: for the sake of the US economy, Christmas should be observed on a weekend, preferably Saturday. Why? A weekend Christmas optimizes US consumer holiday spending.
Here’s the holiday the holiday shopping scramble, charted using monthly US retailer sales from 2000. It’s an oddly EKG-like pattern: something like the heartbeat of consumer spending in America. (All data for this chart and the second chart below from FRED’s monthly retailer sales data series.)
And as you can see below, the day of the week that December 25th falls on seems to influence just how big that month’s bump in consumer spending will be. In this chart, the y-axis is the increase in December sales compared to the monthly average over the other 11 months of the year:
Obviously, one conclusion you can draw from this chart is that having Christmas fall in the midst of a full-blown financial crisis is bad for sales. But to address Cowen’s point, over the last decade the average retail sales bump from a weekend Christmas (23.5%) has been higher than a Tuesday or Wednesday Christmas (18.75%).
Americans have spent a total of $84 billion more over the last two Saturday and two Sunday Christmases than the last two Tuesday and two Wednesday Christmases. And Saturday seems the best option of all, with the highest average percentage bump in sales (24.5%).
If these averages held up this year, moving Christmas from Wednesday (which typically leads to a 20% sales bump) to Saturday (which has an average sales bump of 24.5%) would have increased retailers’ sales by some $16.7 billion.
That’s a gift to the economy.