Should we rush to save the Christmas economy?

Europe is racing to open shop doors for Christmas - but is the festive economy even worth salvaging?

Numbers show that retail and hospitality sectors do enjoy a seasonal boost, but the jury is out on whether it actually does the wider economy much good at all.

Take shopping.

According to Deloitte, the top five Christmas spenders in Europe are Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Portugal, which range from €387 to €639 per capita on average.

In the UK, December sales are generally 50% higher than other months.

That said, Black Friday has made the Christmas run-up less critical, online shopping eases pressure on brick-and-mortar, and some economists predict the economy would still benefit in other ways.

For example, what you save on drinks at the office party may be spent on new furniture.

The last-minute panic buying is one of the most visible aspects of the Christmas economy.

But there are other less tangible, but equally real, economic impacts too.

One is productivity, which can dive as the Christmas bustle distracts workers.

Then there’s the cost to the environment of all the packaging and plastics.

In the UK, last year saw output shrink 0.3% in November, rise 0.3% in December, and record zero growth in January.

In other words, the economy idled.

Working out the overall impact of Christmas on GDP is next to impossible.

But data does at least suggest its significance is overestimated.

Video Transcript

- Europe is racing to open shop doors for Christmas. But is the festive economy even worth salvaging? Numbers show that retail and hospitality sectors do enjoy a seasonal boost. But the jury is out on whether it actually does the wider economy much good at all.

Take shopping. According to Deloitte, the top five Christmas spenders in Europe are Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Portugal, which range from 387 to 639 euros per capita on average. In the UK, December sales are generally 50% higher than other months.

That said, Black Friday has made the Christmas run up less critical. Online shopping eases pressure on brick and mortar, and some economists predict the economy would still benefit in other ways. For example, what you save on drinks at the office party may be spent on new furniture.

The last minute panic buying is one of the most visible aspects of the Christmas economy. But there are other, less tangible but equally real, economic impacts too.

One is productivity, which can dive as the Christmas bustle distracts workers. Then there's the cost to the environment of all the packaging and plastics. In the UK last year saw output shrink 0.3% in November, rise 0.3% in December, and record zero growth in January. In other words, the economy idled.

Working out the overall impact of Christmas on GDP is next to impossible. But data does at least suggest its significance is overrated.