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Thanksgiving Kicks Off an Estimated $586 Billion Holiday Shopping Season


Plus, the price of Thanksgiving dinner stays relatively flat.

Amazon has been running what it calls the Black Friday Deal Week, which offers "lightning" deals throughout the days leading up to and through Thanksgiving. And if avoiding crazed crowds isn't enough of a reason to stay out of the malls and shop online, then Amazon's price advantage certainly should be. In a Bloomberg analysis of 125 randomly chosen toys, Amazon had the better deals, with 44% of the items cheaper than at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart had a price advantage on 13% of the items, while the remaining toys cost the same between the two. Wal-Mart was, however, winner over other in-store retailers, with 80% of these toys costing less than at Kmart, Target, and even Toys R Us.

Interestingly, the amount individual consumers will spend on the holiday season this year will remain relatively flat when compared to last year. The National Retail Federation reports that holiday shoppers will spend on average $749.51 on the season this year, up merely $9 from 2011.

The NRF projects that holiday spending will increase over 4.1% to $586.1 billion, higher than the 10-year-average growth of 3.5%, but below 2011's actual spending, which grew 5.6% from the previous year. If these projections are correct, holiday spending growth has contracted, albeit slightly.

Thanksgiving Dinner as an Economic Indicator

The US Farm Bureau has released an annual informal price survey of a Thanksgiving Day dinner for the past 27 years. This year, a 10-person meal including a 16-pound turkey and all the fixings will cost, on average, $49.48. It's a nominal, less-than-1% bump from the cost of last year's meal -- $49.20 -- as reported by the the US Farm Bureau's news page The Voice of Agriculture.

Although there were price hikes affecting turkey, coffee, onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk, and butter, these were offset by falling prices for whipping cream, cubed bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, whole milk, fresh cranberries, green peas, pumpkin pie mix, and pie shells.

This year's increase is a far-cry from the 13%, or $5.73, jump seen from 2010 to 2011, the largest recorded increase in the cost of Thanksgiving dinner since 1986.

It seems that this year, Thanksgiving dinner is inflation proof.

Twitter: @brokawbrokaw
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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