So, you’ve all been shopping, haven’t you? Of course you have! We’ve seen you schlepping those shopping bags up and down the escalators at the malls. We’ve seen you stand in long lines at Macy’s just to get gift boxes –that’s the 6th floor at “Gift Wrap”. Just from a cursory glance it really does seem like there are a lot more people out there spending money, so there must be some kind of economic recovery going on. Yes, the economists declared the recession to be over in June 2009, but unemployment has slowed things down, or at least the perception that the economy is still tanking. We don’t think so. We have proof.Shopping Cart

According to the New York Times, holiday sales are up considerably from last year. Between October 31 to December 23, online retail sales were up 15%, from $31.5 billion to $36.4 billion. Brick-and-mortar retailers are also up: the National Retail Federation expects that sales will be up 3.3 percent this year, up from 2.3% last year, and much of that is due to very strong apparel sales, up over 25% from last year.

The other day on the news there was an interesting report that illustrated this. It’s not enough, economists say, to look at how much shoppers spend on Christmas presents (oops, sorry, “holiday” gifts). That’s something we’re all expected to do this time of year. What is more telling is how much people are spending on ourselves —and this, apparently, has been the link to all the clothing and apparel that we’re treating ourselves to. These are the numbers that matter. So if you see your aunts with especially nice boots and your uncles with snazzy new leather jackets, well, maybe that recovery may be around the corner.

Big MacAnother economic indicator that social scientists routinely trot out this time of year is at once compelling and responds to price changes virtually every year. And like the Economist’s well-known “Big Mac” index –e.g., according to a price-parity theory, what does a McDonald’s Big Mac cost around the world—this index is timely because, well, it involves going out and purchasing partridges in a pear tree. Doesn’t everyone do this?

Gentle readers, may we bring you what the current price of all the items that our true loves gave to us during these last Twelve Days of Christmas? Guess what? Our true loves this year spent all of $23,439.38, according to the receipts —and to PNC Wealth Management, which every year gives us the Christmas Price Index.

RisingThat’s a 9.2 percent rise, but that isn’t as steep as the 16% rise back in 2003. The Consumer Price Index, or CPI,  which takes into consideration all general goods, is at about 1.1% currently. Apparently the rise in the Christmas Price Index is a pretty standard thing, since these aren’t normally items that consumers stock up on anyways.

Like the Christmas holidays, these are purchases that will only happen at this time of year. You know all those Lexus commercials that pop up this time of year? The ones where wife surprises hubby with a gleaming RX350 with a giant red bow on in the driveway? Yeah, like that happens a lot. Same with this. We don’t expect a lot of geese-a-laying to be opened up today on Christmas morning, but they still cost something, don’t they?

We won’t actually tally up all the revolving costs of all the gifts being given many times over —that, according to the Christmas Price Index (also CPI), would total well over $100,000. We want to simply take each item, one by one. So as you open up your gifts and admire the “Best Dad” mugs and two-slice toasters, think of what you could have been opening up instead:

*Partridge: $12 (up 20%)
*Pear tree: $149 (same)
*Two turtle doves: $100 (up a lot since they’re scarce)
*Three French hens: from Houdan, France, $150 (up 233%)
*Four calling birds: $599.96 (same)
*Five golden rings: $650 (up from $500 given gold prices)
*Six geese-a-laying: $150 (same)
*Seven swans-a-swimming: $5600 (up 6.7%)
*Eight maids-a-milking: $58 (with $7.25 minimum wage, no change)
*Nine ladies dancing: $6294.03 (up 15%, increase in benefits)
*Ten lords-a-leaping: $4766 (up 8%)
*Eleven pipers piping: $2356 (up 3.1%)
*Twelve drummer drumming: $2552 (up 3.1% as well)

Whew! What a list! And for those of you who decided to skip the mall crowds and shop online, consider that it’s hard not to charge someone to make all those FedEx guys deliver swimming swans for free. Yeah: when you figure in all the shopping costs, the PNC contends that the basic gift package would be all of $34,336.

So we wish all of our excellent readers today a most happy holiday as we consider all that shopping we all just got through with this season. Sure, we’ll be back in the stores tomorrow as we return some of those gifts, but for today, enjoy the day in the company of your loved ones, who went out of their way to get you that gift anyways.

Finally, we tried to find a related “Twelve Days of Christmas” clip to go along with this list. So we found a twist on this the other night on Jimmy Fallon. Turns out they couldn’t get the swimming swans and milking maids into Studio 6B of 30 Rock. In return, we are treated to a funny wrap-up of all those items and events that also made 2010 so, well, merry and memorable.

Merry Christmas!

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