If holiday shopping to the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas is your thing, you’ll need just a little more in your wallet this year. PNC’s 40th Christmas Price Index® – the annual tabulation of the price of the gifts in the classic holiday carol – rose to nearly $47,000, a modest 2.7% increase from 2022.
Climbing costs of labor and a tight overall labor market contributed to a price hike in the service industry gifts, which compose the majority of the total price of the index. Overall, service-related gifts rose 3.3%, while gifts of goods (namely birds) rose by 1.5% in 2023.
PNC’s CPI is a light-hearted take on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. The modest increase in PNC’s index this year is lower than the overall consumer index, which is up by 3.2% in the last 12 months.
“The most aggressive Federal Reserve interest rate hiking cycle in history and slowing growth in some of the largest global economies, along with other macroeconomic crosscurrents, have helped lower the increase in the PNC CPI compared to recent years,” said Amanda Agati, chief investment officer for PNC’s Asset Management Group. “Certain industries are experiencing stickier inflation than others, some of which is well beyond the Fed’s control. The good news is that wage growth is now higher than the PNC CPI, which should help True Loves deck the halls this year, considering we are still in a high-inflation environment.”
How the individual gifts fared
Though a quick look out of True Love’s window may make it feel counterintuitive, the Two Turtle Doves are the most volatile gift in the index this year - now costing $750, up 25% in 2023. That’s due to their apparent rarity – the gifting kind being unique from the mourning doves oft perched on the telephone wire in True Love’s backyard.
The only other gift with a double-digit percentage increase in price this year is the first gift, the Partridge in a Pear Tree. Its 13.9% increase is entirely due to continued hikes in the price of the tree (up nearly $40 from last year) as opposed to the bird, which remained unchanged in price from 2022. The Pear Tree’s price is generally reflective of U.S. housing costs and mortgage rates, which continued to climb in 2023.
The most impressive – and most expensive – days of gifting will come when True Love unwraps the Ten Lords-a-Leaping and Seven Swans-a-Swimming. Last year, the Lords eclipsed the Swans as the most expensive gift in the index. They kept their momentum in 2023, leaping another 4% for a total price of $14,539.20. That’s because labor and entertainment prices have continued to rise. The Swans, which long wore the crown as the most expensive gift in the index, stayed flat year to year at a still impressive $13,125.
Other notes from the 2023 Index:
- Often a volatile gift, the Six Geese-a-Laying jumped another 8.3% this year to come in at a total cost of $780.
- Two beacons of consistency, the Four Calling Birds ($599.96) and the Eight Maids-a-Milking ($58) remained unchanged in price in 2023.
- Of the four entertainment-related gifts, only the Nine Ladies Dancing ($8,308.12) stayed stagnant in 2023. The aforementioned Lords, the Eleven Pipers Piping ($3,207.38), and Twelve Drummers Drumming ($3,468.02) all commanded price increases of at least 4%.
- Gold may never go out of style, but plain gold bands seem to be less exciting this holiday season. The Five Gold Rings remain unchanged at $1,245, reflecting flat demand for plain gold.
In-store vs Online
PNC’s Christmas Price Index calculates the cost to purchase all twelve gifts in the song in the traditional method. If convenience is a priority, though, True Love will pay for that too. Fuel, packaging, and shipping cost increases have led to a nearly 5% increase in the cost to fulfill True Love’s holiday list by shopping online. With the exception of the Nine Ladies Dancing – which are based on the price of a dance company – all gifts rose in cost online in 2023. Purchasing all 12 gifts from the internet will cost a total of $52,024.03.
The online costs of the index reflect an economy yet to reset from the e-commerce boom of the pandemic years. It may also foretell a volatile year ahead.
“Much like the index, consumer behavior is the drumbeat for the U.S. economy,” Agati said. “We will be keeping an eye on guiding stars like retail sales, wage growth, savings rates, and consumer sentiment as indicators of the success of this holiday season.”
Visit the PNC Christmas Price Index at its home online for more information on the index, individual gifts, and the 40-year tradition.