The luck of the Irish

3 reasons consumers and retailers are marking their calendars for St. Patrick’s Day

Every year as March 17 rolls around, roughly half of American adults gear up to wear something green, decorate with images of shamrocks and pots of gold and make plans with family and friends. While St. Patrick’s Day captures the attention of a significant number of consumers every year, it can  nevertheless seem like a relatively small drop in the retail bucket compared with holidays like Christmas or Mother’s Day.

Consumers plan to spend $40 on average for St. Patrick’s Day this year, according to the annual survey conducted by NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics — just a fraction of the $162 they planned to spend on Valentine’s Day a month earlier. And unlike some other holidays that have seen consumer spending grow, the average amount consumers spend has stayed consistent even as the economy recovered from the Great Recession. All this begs the question: What is it about this holiday that captures the attention of millions of Americans each year? NRF took a closer look at the data surrounding this holiday to get a better understanding of the lasting appeal of St. Patrick’s Day and its relevance for retailers and brands alike.

It’s not just for the Irish

On the surface, the percentage of consumers who plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day each year appears stable, though topline numbers disguise the holiday’s surge in popularity among certain consumer groups. A decade ago, roughly half of consumers under the age of 35 planned to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; today it has grown to over 70 percent.

 

It’s a chance for the host with the most to shine

While older generations might turn to more traditional St. Patrick’s Day celebrations like preparing a dinner of corned beef and cabbage or attending a parade, younger consumers wholeheartedly embrace the social aspects of the holiday, planning to spend an evening at a bar or restaurant or making party plans with friends. Notably, it’s younger men more than younger women who are putting on the party planning hat. Men under the age of 35 are twice as likely as their female counterparts to say they are planning to host a party. What do those celebrating have in common? Regardless of age, ethnicity or region of the country, more than 70 percent plan to wear green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

 

It’s time to stock up on green cheese and beer

The St. Patrick’s Day purchases of younger consumers match their celebration plans: Apparel — likely something green — along with food and beverages top shopping lists for those under 35. Given their social plans, it’s unsurprising that younger men are those most likely to plan purchases of food and beverages.  Retailers like Aldi are targeting these shoppers with products like green or beer-flavored cheese and some grocers are embracing the holiday’s feature color with displays of Granny Smith apples.

In addition to picking up items at department or grocery stores, roughly a third (34%) of those under the age of 35 plan to buy some of their St. Patrick’s Day items at discount stores. They don’t just visit these stores for St. Patrick’s Day: NRF’s Fall 2018 Consumer View report found that more than 90 percent of millennials and adult Gen Zers shop at bargain or discount retailers such as dollar stores, off-price and thrift stores — often heading there several times a month or more. If these discount shoppers are feeling lucky, it’s a good thing retailers like Dollar Tree, Five Below and Hollar are promoting deals on green cups, balloons, headbands and more.

Visit NRF’s St. Patrick’s Day headquarters for more insights and explore the St. Patrick’s Day data center to see additional information on historical and demographic trends.

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St. Patrick’s Day
 
NRF's annual St. Patrick’s Day survey is released each year in March.
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St. Patrick’s Day Data Center
 
Dive into historical data on how consumers spend and celebrate March 17.
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Holiday and Seasonal Trends
 
NRF conducts consumers surveys to see how Americans will spend and celebrate throughout the year.
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