Americans love a good shopping holiday. If we can find a reason to purchase, we'll gladly take it. So why isn't Boxing Day an official holiday in the United States? The Canadians embrace it and so do the Brits, the Irish, the Australians and a whole lot of other European countries. Again, why not Americans? (For related reading, take a look at Preparing For Black Friday.)
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A Brief History of Boxing Day
Maybe we don't have it in America because we don't know about it, so here's a little bit of history. Some believe that Boxing Day has its roots back in the Middle Ages. Christmas was a big party day for the rich. Extended families and friends would come over for Christmas dinner and accompanying festivities. These parties required the labor of the servants and as a result, the servants didn't get a Christmas holiday of their own. Instead, servants were given the following day off and, to say thanks, their employers would give them gift boxes - this is where some historians believe "Boxing" Day was born.
Modern Boxing Day takes place on December 26, the day after Christmas. It's largely a shopping based holiday and another day off of work for many. We've prepared a few arguments for why the United States needs Boxing Day.
What if American consumers were given a day off of work in order to head to the stores to spend? Stores would embrace it by turning up the heat on those "unbelievable after-Christmas markdowns" and we would take advantage of those stores who still have too much inventory on those shelves. In 2009, an estimated 12 million people flocked to the stores in the U.K. on Boxing Day, a 20% increase from the previous year!
The Benefit of Being Selfish
All of us, while shopping for others, find must-have items at the stores that we would love to purchase for ourselves, but feel too guilty. One survey shows that only 11% of the population is planning to spend more this year than they did last year. When asked why, consumers cited the tough economic climate, foreclosures, credit card debt and a general dissatisfaction with the American economy. If that's true most of us will spend what money we're willing to part with on our children and other loved ones.
That's where Boxing Day comes in! In countries where Boxing Day is celebrated, it is more of a selfish holiday than the days preceding it where buying for others is the focus. Boxing Day could be a day when Americans spend a little extra and buy themselves something nice.
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Spend Your Gift Cards
Part of the American Boxing Day law should require that stores have to keep some of the good stuff in stock because we'll be out in force with our gift cards. In the first half of 2010, the amount of gift cards purchased increased 4.6% over the second half of 2009. Not only that, the average amount of money put on to a gift card increase 2% to $33.73.
Analyst Brian Riley estimates U.S. consumers will spend approximately $92 billion using gift cards in 2010. That compares with $88 billion last year, down from a peak of $97 billion in 2007. Why are gift cards back in the good graces of consumers? Because the new credit card laws which went in to effect in 2010. Gift cards issued after Aug. 22 must have expiration dates that are at least five years from their date of purchase. (In addition to gift cards, learn how these new regulations affect your credit card in How Your Credit Card Is Changing.)
It's Only Fair
If one of your arguments against this is that the Canadians aren't adopting anything we do, fear not. They are! Black Friday is catching on with our neighbors to the north probably because they noticed that in United States, Black Friday accounted for 6.4% of holiday sales in 2009. Because the Thanksgiving holiday falls much earlier in Canada, Black Friday never made sense before. However, American spending fever is spreading North and Canadian retailers are starting to catch. It's only fair that we take on Boxing Day.
The Bottom Line
We could make this work. Americans need a day where they can spoil themselves after spending more than a month thinking only of others. Boxing Day is the answer. What's the next thing we're going after? Shorter work weeks! (For additional reading, see 5 Money-Saving Shopping Tips.)
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