The politically correct greeting of the season is “Happy Holidays,” as “Merry Christmas” might be considered offensive and exclusionary to some. I find this incredibly hypocritical of retailers and the many other businesses that benefit tremendously from a holiday they essentially refuse to acknowledge.
In fact, regardless of one’s religious affiliation, everyone benefits from the economic powerhouse that is the Christmas season. What was once a season made up predominantly of religious celebration has become an economic necessity. The gift-giving season can literally bestow economic prosperity to many industries or destroy an otherwise financially stable year. And although other religious occasions have gotten into the gift-giving act, it is an economic fact that Christmas drives this season of commerce.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the month of December represented 14 percent of retail sales for department stores for the entire 2005 year with a total of $31.7 billion. This was a 47 percent jump from the previous month, and the largest month-to-month increase for 2005.
Christmas doesn’t just drive retail sales for gift-giving but an amazing number of ancillary industries as well.
The shipping industry benefits tremendously from the Christmas holiday. Toys, dolls and games alone represented a total value of $3.2 billion in shipments from toy manufacturers in 2004.
Thisyear, the U.S. Postal Service estimates that 20 billion letters, packages and cards will be delivered between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s a remarkable amount of postage. Dec. 18 is predicted to be the busiest mailing day for cards and letters, while Dec. 20 should be the heaviest delivery day for packages.
Even farming has gotten into the action by cashing in on Christmas. No longer do we head into the forest with an ax to chop down a Christmas tree. Instead, many of us drive over to the nearest Christmas tree lot to choose a tree that’s been grown specifically for holiday decorating. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the nation’s Christmas tree farmers received $485 million from tree sales in 2005.
But don’t be fooled, Christmas is not just an American money-making machine. China, for example, is the leading importer of Christmas tree ornaments. According the U.S. Census, China imported $605 million worth of ornaments between January and August of this year.
Of course, China profits tremendously from the toy industry as well. Between January and August 2006 the U.S. imported $639 million worth of stuffed toys. And who would have thought that roller skates would represent $82 million in revenue to China, or puzzles at $49 million, and electric trains a grand total of $65 million? And this year, China beat Canada as the biggest supplier of ice skates with Thailand sliding in at third place and a total of $4.9 million.
When one thinks of Christmas, children’s toys automatically come to mind. But do we think of toys in terms of employment opportunities? In 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 116 doll and stuffed toy manufacturers in the U.S, which employed 2,386 workers, and 723 manufacturers of primarily games, toys and children’s vehicles employing some 16,465 workers. California led the nation in both of these manufacturing categories.
Department stores also contribute heavily to the job market. In December, 2005 alone 1.8 million people were employed by these establishments. This is up by 46,000 from November and 186,000 from October. And this is just one example of the many industries that add employees to their payroll for the Christmas season.
It’s undeniable that Christmas represents huge business. Yet, saying “Merry Christmas” has become politically incorrect. Even if one is not a Christian and wants to put all religious connotation aside, aren’t the pure economics of the season enough too earn Christmas a bit more respect and recognition than “Happy Holidays”?
Kathleen Antrim is a columnist for The Examiner newspapers, writes for NewsMax Magazine and is the author of the political thriller “Capital Offense.” She can also be heard Mondays at 7 a.m. on KSFO, 560 AM, on “The Lee Rogers and Melanie Morgan Show.” For more information log on to: www.kathleenantrim.com