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Timing Could Cause St. Patrick's Day Spending to Dip: Study

WASHINGTON -- The luck of the Irish might not extend to St. Patrick's Day this year, as a calendar shift is likely to hamper spending, according to a consumer study released by the National Retail Federation.

Consumers will spend an estimated $3.64 billion on St. Patrick's Day, less than last year's $3.76 billion, according to the 2008 St. Patrick's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, conducted by BIGresearch for NRF.

The average person will spend slightly more on the holiday than last year ($35.04 vs. $34.89). However, fewer people will celebrate this year (46.0 percent in 2008 vs. 48.3 percent in 2007), the survey found. One of the primary reasons for this is that, for the first time since 1940, St. Patrick's Day falls during Holy Week, the sacred seven days before Easter. In fact, some cities, including Savannah, Ga.; Philadelphia, and Milwaukee, are moving their official celebrations to March 14, the Friday before St. Patrick's Day.

"Retailers and restaurants that benefit from the St. Patrick's Day holiday are up against a double whammy of an early Easter and the holiday falling on a Monday," said NRF president and c.e.o. Tracy Mullin in a statement. "With the holiday just six days before Easter, many retailers are finding that they don't have enough space on their shelves to promote shamrocks and Easter bunnies at the same time."

Restaurants and bars are still poised to see strong sales for the holiday. According to the survey, nearly one-third of consumers (30.6 percent) will celebrate St. Patrick's Day by attending a party at a bar or restaurant. In addition, one in five will attend a private party (18.4 percent) or make a special dinner (33.7 percent). Others will celebrate the holiday in smaller ways by wearing green (82.5 percent) and decorating their home or office (23.6 percent).

Young adults remain the largest celebrators of the holiday, with more than two-thirds (71.8 percent) of 18-24 year-olds planning to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. And at $42.20 per person, young adults will also spend more than average.

For the study, BIGresearch polled 7,977 consumers from February 5-12, 2008. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent, NRF said.
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