A bit of holiday economics courtesy of Bloomberg’s Black Friday coverage:
Holiday sales may also get a boost from there being 32 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year compared with 30 in 2011, Jennifer Davis, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets in New York, wrote in a note.
Yeah, doubt it. Remember your Parkinson’s Law: work expands to fill time. If you have 32 days for Christmas shopping instead of 30, odds are that you may distribute your shopping days differently, but how many of you are changing your total gift budget based on having an extra 48 hours? Sure, there might be some minor knock-on effects — if the extra time leads to you going to the mall four times instead of three, there may be an extra trip to the adjacent Starbucks, for instance — but it’s probably not the kind of thing that’s going to make a big difference.
It’s a minor quibble but one that shouldn’t go unchallenged, because this kind of thinking has a way of bleeding into policymaking. Remember “Cash for Clunkers“? It somehow came as a huge shock to the plan’s proponents in Washington that auto sales plummeted when the program came to an end. By creating an incentive to make vehicle purchases during the window when the plan’s benefits were operative, the policy shifted when consumers made their purchases, but it didn’t goose long-term demand. And the resultant downturn was exactly what you’d expect from such sugar high economics.
While we’re on the topic of sucrose public policy, where batter to wrap this all up than with the Willy Wonka of such efforts, Franklin D. Roosevelt? Let us not forget his attempted contribution to the yuletide economy, as memorably captured by our friend (and occasional guest contributor at Ricochet) Melanie Kirkpatrick, who chronicled “Franksgiving” for the Wall Street Journal back in 2009:
In 1939, FDR decided to move Thanksgiving Day forward by a week. Rather than take place on its traditional date, the last Thursday of November, he decreed that the annual holiday would instead be celebrated a week earlier.
The reason was economic. There were five Thursdays in November that year, which meant that Thanksgiving would fall on the 30th. That left just 20 shopping days till Christmas. By moving the holiday up a week to Nov. 23, the president hoped to give the economy a lift by allowing shoppers more time to make their purchases and—so his theory went—spend more money.
For the next two years, Roosevelt continued to move up the date of Thanksgiving, and more states resigned themselves to celebrating early. By 1941, however, the facts turned against Roosevelt.
By then, retailers had two years of experience with the early Thanksgiving, and data were available regarding the 1939 and 1940 Christmas shopping seasons. In mid-March 1941, The Wall Street Journal reported the results of a survey done in New York City. The Journal’s headline put it succinctly: “Early Thanksgiving Not Worth Extra Turkey or Doll.” Only 37% of stores surveyed favored the early date. In Washington, the federal government reported that the early Thanksgiving resulted in no boost to retail sales.
A timely reminder that there are probably a few people in your life who could use some Henry Hazlitt in their stocking this year.