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What if there were no holidays and no holiday shopping? Not just the big end-of-year holidays, but all holidays? The first place I went on my quest to find out was the streets of Los Angeles. I asked people if they would miss the holidays if they suddenly vanished. Most people said not really.
Monica Zemsky was walking in Venice with her 6-year-old son riding a Razor scooter a few steps ahead. She said she wouldn’t be the least bit sad if the holidays went away. But her son, Finn, felt differently. His reason, “I get all these things.”
That’s why retailers call them “consumer holidays,” according Kathy Grannnis, at the National Retail Federation. “Everything from St. Patrick’s Day to Chanukah and Christmas are big business for retailers.”
Retailers have found a way to market products for every occasion — from costumes at Halloween to green beads on St. Patrick’s Day. So what would happen to our economy if those sudden bursts of holiday shopping were to vanish under mysterious circumstances?
“I think if we were to adjust to a pattern where holidays were outlawed, we would probably consume as much products and services, it would just be a different mix,” says Michael Hicks, the director of the Center of Business and Economic Research at Ball State. “Without the holidays, the labor market would see a lot less temporary hires and there are certain products that might go away for good. I’m sure that bad Christmas music would entirely evaporate, which may not be a bad thing.”
Would the world be a darker place without Bob Dylan’s bizarre polka version of “It Must Be Santa“? Maybe not, but all the royalties from that album went to charity, and that, Hicks says, would be hard to replace. “I’m not sure there is anything like the holiday season for opening people’s pocketbooks to charity.”
And without the holidays, you might not get a tactical tomahawk.
“We’re giving people things like tactical tomahawks,” says Will Akerlof, president of Liquid Advertising. His clients include brands in the entertainment industry and this year, as a thank you, he’s sending them tomahawks designed for fighting off the zombie apocalypse. He admits it “is an example of inefficient corporate giving that probably would be redirected to more productive parts of the economy should we not engage in it.”
If it weren’t for holidays, though, he might not be able to afford tomahawks. Many of his clients pay him to produce holiday ad campaigns. But even if the calendar had no holidays, Akerlof has no doubt that consumer holidays, like life itself, would find a way.
“Yeah, there would be an opportunity for a sale and it would be Start of March, and it would eventually turn into something exactly like a holiday anyway,” he says. “We would have Start of March parades and Start of March sales and Start of March cards to give out.”
I know it’s only December, so let me be the first to wish you and yours a very merry Start of March.
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