St Patrick’s Day Celebrations Look to be a Modest Event for Retailers, Despite Rising Numbers of US Celebrants

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Key Points

  • US Consumers plan to spend an average of $40 this St Patrick’s Day – far less than other holidays such as Valentine’s Day’s $162 average.
  • Average spend has fluctuated over the years, although the proportion of people who say they’ll celebrate has risen.
  • From about 55% in 2009, more than 70% of 18-34 year olds plan to celebrate this year.
  • Older generations are more likely to host a dinner or attend a parade: Younger people are more likely to hit the bars or have a party.

From its humble beginnings as a way for Irish-Americans to assert their identity in the New World, St Patrick’s Day (March 17) has evolved into a global day of celebration featuring parades, green beer and all manner of “Irish” decorations such as shamrocks, leprechauns and pots of gold.

St. Patrick’s Day captures a great deal of attention, but its retail impact is small compared to other US holidays: Consumers plan to spend $40 on average for St. Patrick’s Day this year, less than a quarter their planned $162 Valentine’s Day spend, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Source: NRF/Prosper Insights & Analytics

And while other holidays have seen consumer spending grow, average St Patrick’s Day spend has fluctuated – but never hit high levels. The one upside for retailers is that the percentage of people celebrating the holiday has climbed: Ten years ago, roughly half of consumers under the age of 35 planned to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Now, over 70% plan to.

Different age groups also mark the holiday differently. Older generations tend to favor a traditional St. Patrick’s Day celebration such as a dinner of corned beef and cabbage or attending a parade. Young consumers are more likely to hit the bars or restaurants with friends or host a party.

Source: NRF/Prosper Insights & Analytics

Interestingly, younger men are more likely than younger women hold a party: More than twice the number of men under the age of 35 said they will host a party than did women in the same age group. 

Along with all things green (including green food coloring for food and beverages), younger consumers’ St. Patrick’s Day purchases map to their celebration plans: Apparel, along with food and beverages, top shopping lists for those under 35.

Some 34% of those under the age of 35 plan to buy some of their St. Patrick’s Day items at discount stores, not surprising as shoppers who turned to discount stores during the global financial crisis seem to have acquired an appetite for discounts that never abated.

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