As the end of the year approaches and holiday lights appear in storefronts, children anticipate one special night. The night they leave out cookies and milk for a jolly old man in a red and white suit, who shimmies down the chimney leaving presents in his wake. For many Americans, Christmas is a time when family and friends get together to wear ugly sweaters, swap gifts, and reminisce over the past year. For some retailers, tinsel and stocking stuffers are sold all year. Christmas Tree stores don’t allow consumers to escape from the holiday season. As soon as November 1st hits, the merchandise and decor in most shops are quickly switched from pumpkins and ghosts to candy canes and reindeer.
Christmas has not always been a holiday dedicated to decorating trees and driving the US economy. During the fourth century, the Christian church decided to begin celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. There is no scientific evidence of when the birth occurred, so the Christian church chose December 25th as the sacred day. According to the website for History; it is rumored that this date was chosen to keep up with the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia Festival, which the custom of gift giving also stemmed from.
Santa Claus has been in Coca-Cola Company advertisements since the 1920s. In the 1930s the beverage giant decided to depict a Santa Claus that was both
“realistic and symbolic,” according to the Coca-Cola Company website. Artist Hadn Sundblom was tasked with completing this challenge. Coca-Cola used the excitement from Christmas and the holiday season as a tool to increase their sales. During this time, Christmas traditions evolved from being purely religious and family oriented into the means for creating an economic juggernaut. Retailers rely on this time of the year to generate billions of dollars in sales, much like Coca-Cola company used Santa Claus as a means to sell sugary soda. Between the 1930s and 1960s, Coke created ads that showed Santa Claus delivering toys and drinking Cola, which is where the relation between the two first began.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) considers the holiday season to be from November 1st until December 31st. Holiday sales account for approximately 20 percent of annual retail sales, but depending on the retailer, the figure could be higher. For more than a decade, the NRF has been tracking holiday sales. Revenue has been on a steady increase, aside from 2008 when there was a 4.7 percent decrease. Despite the slump, during 2008 the retailers still made $501.5 billion in holiday sales. According to the NRF, 39 percent of individuals that celebrate Christmas, begin their shopping before November 1st. For the 2019 holiday season, the NRF projects a 3.8-4.2 percent increase which translates to $730.7 billion in sales. “As for New England, consumers say they will spend on average $1,178.96. That compares with the nationwide average of $1,047.83,” according to Craig Shearman, the Vice President for Government Affairs Public Relations at the NRF.
Over the past few years, Amazon has emerged as a top online retailer. Holiday sales usually don’t begin until the weekend of Thanksgiving because of Black Friday, but this year Amazon wanted to do things differently. On November 1st, Amazon launched their holiday promotions. Quick to beat their competitors, Amazon put out their promos early. Some retailers put out holiday decorations as early as September. The increase in sales during this time of year directly effects the need for more Amazon warehouse workers as well as delivery drivers. Retail workers benefit this time of the year because stores hire temporary workers in order to meet increased demand. Having such an increase in sales requires workers to put in more time, which ultimately leads to more money in retail workers pockets.
“During the Christmas season Amazon employees are required to [work] mandatory overtime hours. My regular schedule was Thursday to Saturday 6:00pm-6:00am and my overtime day is Sunday 6am-4:30pm,” says 22 year old Amazon package sorter and delivery driver Trevon Cohen. “Working for Amazon during the Christmas season is both stressful and demanding. Due to the high number of orders in addition to the mandatory overtime, requesting and getting approved for time off is very difficult.”
According to the NRF, it is estimated that 165.3 million people plan on doing their shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend. It is safe to assume that the bulk of shopping done during this weekend is dedicated to catching up on Christmas shopping. Sixty-five percent of those individuals admitted to shopping during this time because the sales are “too good to pass up.” Retailers use the holiday season to their advantage by creating advertisements and deals dedicated to enticing holiday shoppers. According to Bloomberg’s website, sales on Black Friday this year totaled $7.4 billion, which is an increase from 2018’s $6.22 billion.
While young children are certainly exposed to the Black Friday ads on the television, they aren’t concerned with the pressures and the money their parents dish out to give them the perfect Christmas every year. Their attention is solely focused on the model train set or the American Girl doll they saw on TV, but there is a year-round industry at work driving the US economy. Christmas in America has become a commercial holiday more than a religious one.
Raeven Steed is a staff writer for Blue Muse Magazine.
Headline Image: Rene Johnston/ Toronto Star
Holiday Sales and 2019 Forecast Graph: U.S. Census