This Christmas Business

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It comes as no surprise that Christmas can be big business for retailers, but can the high concentration of public holidays and office closures leave some businesses feeling less than festive?

An annual Christian festival celebrating the birth of Christ, Christmas is most commonly observed on 25 December.

Australia, New Zealand, USA and every country in Europe, excluding the majority Islamic states have at least one statutory day off, Christmas Day itself. Countries including the UK, Italy and Australia, also give workers the day following Christmas, while Christmas Eve is also a national holiday for those in countries including Sweden & Denmark. With the exception of Israel, all countries that follow the Gregorian calendar celebrate New Year’s Day with another national holiday just a week later.

African nations including Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia also celebrate Christmas Day and the day afterwards with national holidays. However, while Christmas Day is observed in many Asian countries in most cases there’s not a public holiday and businesses operate as usual, with the exception of South Korea and the Philippines.

It’s also worth noting that as Russians observe the Julian calendar, meaning Christmas Day falls 13 days later on 7 January (every day from New Year’s Day to the day after Russian Orthodox Christmas Day is a national holiday), while the Coptic community in Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea celebrate Christmas on 7 January, according to the Coptic calendar.

Out of office

How businesses react to this holiday and therefore what the impact is can differ dramatically from country to country. In Norway, the time between Christmas and New Year is known as Romjul, meaning ‘half-holiday’, a time when businesses remain closed and people spend time with friends and family. In the US and UK however, many workers are expected to return to their desks during this period. While staff numbers are usually depleted and work can be very slow, it is standard in these countries for businesses to be ‘open’ during these dates.

It is however starting to become more commonplace for companies in these countries to shut down their operations on these interim days, with some offering their staff additional paid leave as a reward for their work throughout the year and others rather less generously insisting that staff take some of their existing annual paid leave allowance.

Retail spending

With a recent survey estimating that the average British family spends around £800 on Christmas and festive sales accounting for a reported $400 billion in economic activity, the festive season obviously has a huge impact on retailers.

In an industry where some businesses will generate almost half their annual revenue in the holiday season, the trend for spending big at Christmas means it’s a time for longer opening hours and additional staff, from shop assistants to customer services operatives and delivery drivers.

However, the US concept of ‘Black Friday’, which sees huge sales starting the day after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of November), has started to be adopted elsewhere. This means that although there are plenty of shoppers, in many cases prices are dramatically dropped, despite staffing costs rising for this period.

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