The vast majority of Americans celebrate Christmas with lights, carols, fir trees and wreaths, as well as, of course, by buying and exchanging gifts. For most people, the celebration means, above all, spending more money. With sales across virtually all retail areas increasing dramatically at the end of the year, the Christmas season is a reliable annual economic boost for many U.S. businesses.
Using a model based on the National Retail Federation holiday spending methodology, 24/7 Wall St. determined how much a person spent on average during the season — in November and December — of each year since 1940. Back then, Americans spent just over $27 billion during the Christmas season, or about $205 per person on average.
Since then, the U.S. population has more than doubled, and spending during the holidays has increased many times over. At a total of $631.7 billion, 2015 holiday spending is the highest on record. The average spending per person over November and December 2015 was almost $2,000, also the highest of any year for which data are available.
Gifts, mostly for Christmas, will continue to account for a good chunk of the holiday spending. According to a Gallup poll conducted from November 9-13, 2016 the average American plans to spend approximately $750 on just gifts this holiday season.
For over a decade, U.S. jewelry stores have relied on the holiday season for between 25% and 30% of their annual revenue. Last year, 27.4% of jewelry sales occurred in November and December, the highest percentage of all industries. For reference, with no seasonality whatsoever, the average two months of sales would amount to 16.7% of annual revenue. For the jewelry industry specifically, an average two-month period outside the holiday season almost never brings in more than 15% of the year’s revenue.
To determine Christmas spending in each year, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed consumer spending in November and December published by the U.S. Census Bureau each year from 1992 through 2015. Using a model based on the National Retail Federation holiday spending methodology, we estimated spending levels in each year since 1940. In line with figures published by the NRF, average spending over November and December includes all purchases except spending on restaurants, cars, and gas. Personal income per capita, adjusted for inflation, in each year came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Here is what Americans spent on Christmas each year since 1940.