Economic woes don't stop America's patriotic spirit. This year citizens will celebrate the Fourth of July in numbers as big as ever. In fact, they could spend upward of $3 billion on holiday weekend parties, food, entertainment and travel.
According to the National Retail Federation's 2010 Independence Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey (conducted by BIGresearch, a consumer research firm based in Worthington, Ohio), 87.8 percent of all Americans will take part in some sort of Independence Day festivity. And they'll spend a lot of cash doing it. Here's how.
Lots of Americans show off their holiday spirit in the form of flags, decorations and clothes: 79 percent of Americans already own some form of patriotic merchandise, and 16 percent will buy more for this year's holiday, according to the survey. But they'll do do more than just wave flags: 42 percent of them will watch fireworks or attend a community celebration.
Those fireworks don't come cheap: Consumers will spend over $600 million on fireworks this holiday weekend, according to the American Pyrotechnic Association, a Bethesda, Md., trade group. Two-thirds of that will be spent on backyard fireworks, but there will also be over 14,000 organized local displays.
Independence Day tends to be a time for casual get-togethers with loved ones, rather than formal dinners or gift-giving. "You're just enjoying quality time with your family and friends," says Pamela Goodfellow, an analyst at BIGresearch. But quality time doesn't come cheap, especially for the 62 percent of Americans who will gather for a cookout or a picnic. BIGresearch estimates that each cookout will cost, on average, about $54.62. And with 36 million barbecues and picnics taking place across the country, Americans could spend a total of nearly $2 billion on cookouts alone.
Americans will spend $92 million on chips and $60.3 million on dip. They'll drop $193.6 million on hamburger patties, $70.4 million on buns and $86.2 million on cheese. And they'll pay $203 million for mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup, and $161.5 million for lettuce, tomatoes, relish and onions.
Grilling all that food costs almost as much as buying it. Americans will spend $111.1 million on charcoal and another $94.3 million on lighter fluid, according to the BIGresearch survey.
What about dessert? Watermelon will cost the nation $167.5 million, and popsicle revenues will total $107.7 million.
Meanwhile, beer companies like Molson Coors and Anheuser Busch will see a big boost in revenue from holiday sales. This year Americans will spend $341.4 million on beer, more than they spend on burgers and hot dogs combined. And spending on soda will set the nation back an additional $101 million, according to BIGresearch — good news for Coca Cola Bottling and PepsiCo, Inc.
Food and drink won't be the only costs this weekend. If loved ones are far away, that means additional money spent on gasoline and travel. The American Automobile Association projects 34.9 million Americans will make a trip of at least 50 miles during this year's holiday period, from Thursday, July 1 to Monday, July 5. That's a 17 percent increase from last year, when only 29.8 million people traveled that far.
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The increase in the number of travelers is primarily the result of the easing of the recession, according to the AAA. Will the Gulf Coast oil spill affect the number of people traveling to that area? "Not at all," says Robert Sinclair, an AAA spokesman. "People who go to those regions are not just going to the beach." The AAA projects that travel to the Gulf Coast area will increase about as much as travel to other regions.
Fortunately, gas prices won't be too high for all those drivers. AAA forecasts that over the holiday weekend, the national average price of self-serve regular gasoline will be between $2.70 and $2.80 per gallon, down from $4.11 in 2008. That's good news for the 90 percent of this year's travelers who will reach their destinations by car.
Though it's primarily a family holiday, young people will join in the festivities in larger numbers than other groups: 95 percent of people ages 18-24 will be celebrating, but only 82 percent of people over age 65 will. That's pretty typical for holidays, according to Goodfellow. "Anytime you can get out and celebrate at that age, you do. The Fourth of July is a great excuse to party."
© 2012 Forbes.com