According to the PNC press release announcing what the “true love” pays to purchase all the gifts on his Christmas list (as laid out in the song, “The 12 Days of Christmas”), the total cost can be calculated four different ways: the purchase of one set of items for each day (77 items) or “True Cost of Christmas,” the total cost of items gifted by a True Love who repeats the gift-giving in all of the song’s verses (364 items), for both traditional and Internet shopping.
2007 is the twenty-third year the gift costs have been calculated by PNC. The gift prices rose 3.1 percent above what they cost in 2006. This mirrors the U.S. government’s Consumer Price Index (a widely used measure of inflation calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics), up 3.5 percent so far this year.
“Each year, the Christmas Price Index reflects trends in the broader economy,” said James Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management. “This year, increased commodities prices, concerns about the value of the dollar and the first minimum wage increase in 10 years were major factors in the increases to the Christmas Price Index.”
Rebekah McCahan, Assistant Vice President and a member of the Investment Strategy team for PNC Wealth Management and Institutional Investments, assumed the True Love’s shopping duties in 1986 by putting a price tag on each of the items from “The 12 Days of Christmas.” The “tongue-in-cheek”economic analysis that evaluates french hens, maids-a-milking and gold rings reveals some distinctive economic trends.
“What’s really surprising is that our index follows overall Consumer Price Index trends,” notes McCahan. “To think that the cost of a partridge in a pear tree would mirror what’s going on at Target, for example, is pretty interesting.”
For the traditional shopper, the cost of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is $19,507 in 2007, a 3.1 percent increase over last year. The true cost for all 364 items is up 4%, at $78,100.
True Loves purchasing their gifts online find that their costs reflect the trends of the traditional shopper, but in general are higher partly due to shipping costs. The overall increase of Internet prices is 3%, for a cost of $24,214, and a true cost of $128,886 .
“The cost of the Gold Rings in this year’s Christmas Price Index reflects the general trend of increasing commodity prices in the Consumer Price Index, including gold,” said Dunigan. “In addition, increased fears about inflation and the value of the dollar may have led investors to turn to gold as a safer place to invest their money.” The price of five gold rings is $395, a 21.5 percent increase over 2006 prices, but still nowhere close to 1989 prices, when the five Gold Rings hit an all-time high of $750.
Since Congress increased the minimum wage for unskilled laborers by 13.6%, the cost for one-hour’s work for eight Maids-a-Milking increased to $46.80. “They have not had an increase since 1997,” said Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investment for PNC Wealth Management. “The good news is, if you’re a maid-a-milking…”
Most of the performers, however—the drummers ($2,397.85), pipers ($2,213.00) and lords ($4,205.06)—rose about 3-4%, while the dancing ladies fee was unchanged ($4,759.00), according to Philadanco, a modern dance company in Philadelphia.
Among the feathered friends in the Christmas Price Index, the most notable increase was a 20 percent change in the price for six Geese-a-Laying, according to information provided by the National Aviary ($360.00).
“For True Loves planning to serve a Christmas goose – or six – for a holiday meal, this item will be a bit more expensive,” said Dunigan. “Food prices have increased over the last year, which has not impacted birds like Turtle Doves and Partridges, but has had an impact on birds traditionally served as food, like Geese.”
The cost of Calling Birds (or canaries) is up 25% this year due to higher demand and increased shipping costs for retailers, according to a national pet store chain PNC uses to price the birds. However, most of the other bird prices remain even with last year’s cost, thanks to steady supply and demand for Partridges ($15.00), Turtle Doves ($40.00), French Hens ($40.00) and Swans ($4,200.00).
If one had $78,000 to splurge for Christmas, there’s “probably a Mercedes or a Hummer in there someplace,” Dunigan said. “The key there is you’d lose the romantic value.”
(return to THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: 2008 STYLE )