holiday shopping moral good

Jennifer Stefano: Holiday shopping is a moral good

Despite a growing association of the Christmas season with anti-consumerism, holiday shopping stimulates local economies and businesses, writes Commonwealth Foundation Executive Vice President and Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jennifer Stefano in her recent column

“Why can’t we see consumerism at Christmas – and the capitalist system that spawned it – for the moral good that it is?” Stefano asks.

Stefano continues:

Missing in anti-consumerism arguments are the good financial tidings and greater economic joy our spending brings to others. Retailers, restaurants, and service providers experience a significant boost in revenue, which translates into increased employment opportunities, higher wages, and improved working conditions.

What’s not joyful about that?

This seasonal pattern is especially true in Philadelphia. Small businesses in the city are a driving force behind our economy. In Philadelphia, approximately 90% of businesses are, by definition, small businesses, meaning they employ fewer than 99 people. …

Consumer spending on the days between Black Friday and Christmas morning can often determine whether many businesses thrive or fail. During this narrow window last year, holiday spending generated up to 65% of annual revenue for small businesses. …

Despite recent inflation, economic downturns, and market volatility, small businesses anticipate a strong recovery this month. The National Retail Federation forecasted 2023 sales to “reach record levels” during November and December. Some estimates suggest a 42% increase in consumer spending at small businesses this holiday season — further fueling the city’s desperately needed economic recovery.

Moreover, this economic activity benefits people of color in Philadelphia, as one in four businesses in Philadelphia are Black-owned — more than twice the national average.

Corporate and individual charitable donations increase during the holiday season, too, providing much-needed support for nonprofit organizations, assistance programs, and community initiatives. Most nonprofits receive nearly half of their online revenue in the last week of December. …

We give not just to see joy on the faces of the recipient, but in order to benefit the many people who can now give and receive because we bought something. …

If gift-giving was good enough for the Three Wise Men, then it’s good enough for me.

You can read Stefano’s entire column here.


The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.