Monday, November 21, 2011

Gobble Gobble

November is coming and going faster than Kim Kardashian’s marriage (sorry, had to go there).  It’s coming and going faster than Lindsay Lohan’s jail time (4 hours for a 30 day sentence, blink and you missed it).  But don’t worry if you missed these great cultural events, another opportunity to hem and haw over marriages and prison sentences for these fine citizens will be here soon enough.  They haven’t let us down so far!  And just as fast: Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here again.  Apparently, according to retailers, Thanksgiving already came and went and we’ve already moved on to Christmas.  If retailers had it there way, Christmas would be a year-round celebration (and for some, it is!).
And if Christmas was year round?  We would oblige.  We love this time of year, although “the most wonderful time of year” gets awarded to back to school, a retailer designated holiday in early September (Labor Day wasn’t cutting it).   We love any excuse to celebrate and are always preparing for the next event.  Thanks to Halloween, retail sales in October were up 0.5% over September.  Year over year, sales are up over 7% - well done America.   And in other helpful news, as we ramp up for the big 3 (Thanksgiving-Hanukah-Christmas), the prices we paid for stuff in October – not including food and energy – remained relatively flat (up 0.1% over September, and up a mild 2.1% over last year).  Extra stocking stuffers for everyone!
If only food and energy prices could get the message and shape up.  After all, Thanksgiving is a time to feast on Turkey, Ham, potatoes, cranberry, stuffing, biscuits, pumpkin pie, and whatever else can fit on the table.  Food is the centerpiece of this holiday.  Yet prices on food are up almost 5% over last year (that’s not something to be very thankful for).   Worse, digging in to individual food prices, we find some numbers that might just give us indigestion.
After a three year hiatus on increases in the cost of our Thanksgiving dinner, prices of some important feasting necessities have taken a considerable hike.  Turkey prices are up 10% over last year, canned fruits and vegetables are up 7%, and biscuits and rolls are up 11%.  Worse, potato prices are up 36% over last year.  Dessert isn’t looking much better:  cakes and cookie prices are up 11% while pies, tarts and turnover prices jumped by 13% last year.  Hopefully we didn’t go so overboard for Halloween that our Thanksgiving feast will not require breaking the piggy bank.
A word of advice:  if traveling to another household for the big dinner, offer to bring a bottle of wine or some beer.  Not only will your hosts be happy to drown their sorry grocery bill away, but you will come out ahead.  Why?  Because the savvy consumer you are knew that while food prices skyrocketed, alcohol prices were the only ingredient of the feast that remained relatively flat (not even up by 1%).  Now that’s something to be thankful for.  Happy Thanksgiving!
(Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

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