Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — Annual Christmas Price Index details cost of ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ — true loves get a bargain this year

TODD SMITH — Annual Christmas Price Index details cost of ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ — true loves get a bargain this year

TODD SMITH

TODD SMITH

Reflecting a steep decline in energy costs, lower inflation and slow-but-steady economic growth, the 2015 PNC Christmas Price Index® (PNC CPI) experienced its lowest growth rate in six years at 0.6 percent in the whimsical holiday economic analysis by PNC Wealth Management.

According to the 32nd annual report – which measures the cost of the gifts in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” – the price tag for the PNC CPI is $34,130.99 in 2015, a mere $198 more than last year’s cost and in-line with the government’s Consumer Price Index, which has increased 0.2 percent over the past 12 months.
“While the economy continues to chug along on a sustainable path, low commodity prices are keeping consumer costs down,” Jim Dunigan, chief investment officer, PNC Asset Management Group, said in a news release. “With only a few items in our index increasing in cost this year, True Loves should be thrilled that they can have their goose and better afford the gas to roast it too.”

The cost of each item was revealed on an interactive website (www.pncchristmaspriceindex.com) that teaches consumers about the index through a real-life gingerbread branch experience.
Nine of the 12 items in the index maintained their cost this year. The cost of the Partridge in a Pear Tree rose 3.5 percent, primarily due to the Partridge’s growing popularity as a gourmet food and in backyard farming. Turtle Doves are up 11.5 percent due to increased grain prices, and Lords-a-Leaping prices rose 3 percent due to an increase in salaries.
As part of its annual tradition, PNC Wealth Management also tabulates the “True Cost of Christmas,” which is the total cost of items gifted by a True Love who repeats all of the song’s verses. The ultra-generous True Love will have to fork over $155,407 to pay for all 364 gifts, nearly $900 more than last year. To mirror the government’s core CPI, which excludes energy and food prices, PNC removes the Swans – typically the most volatile item in the index – from its total index. With the Swans excluded, the core PNC CPI rose just 1.0 percent, similar to the 1.9 percent increase in the government’s core CPI.

» Five gold rings: The most surprising result in this year’s PNC CPI was the cost of Five Gold Rings, which stayed the same as the past two years, despite the drop in gold commodity prices again this year. From PNC CPI history, the gold rings appear not as volatile as the underlying commodity.

» Bargains in entertainment: If one is looking for entertainment to fill the True Love’s stocking, there may be bargains this year. Prices for Nine Ladies dancing ($7,553), 11 Pipers Piping ($2,635) and 12 Drummers Drumming ($2,855) are exactly on par with the past two years. The 10 Lords-A-Leaping, however, cost three percent more than in 2014.

» Pear tree: Economists report that housing prices have been on an upward trend for the past two years, with the Pear Tree, as the home to the Partridge, increasing 1.2 percent.

» Maids-a-milking: The prices for the Eight Maids-a-Milking, the only unskilled workers in the index, held steady for the sixth straight year reflecting the federal minimum wage, which hasn’t risen since 2009, after seeing increases for 3 straight years.
The PNC CPI’s sources include retailers, hatcheries, the Philadelphia-based PHILADANCO and the Pennsylvania Ballet Company.

Cyber prices: The cost of convenience 

For those True Loves who prefer the convenience of shopping online, PNC Wealth Management calculates the cost of  “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gifts purchased on the Internet. As Internet prices tend to be higher, True Loves will have to splurge $43,626.73 ($9,495.74 more than buying “in person”) for the convenience of online shopping this year.

Today’s Washington press corps more digital, specialized

The story of which media outlets are covering federal government is a striking illustration of the shifting power dynamics within American journalism at large.

Reporters for niche outlets, some of which offer highly specialized information services at premium subscription rates, now fill more seats in the U.S. Senate Press Gallery than do daily newspaper reporters, according to the Pew Research Center. As recently as the late 1990s, daily newspaper staff outnumbered such journalists by more than two-to-one.

Also increasing in number are reporters for digital news publishers – some of which focus on niche subjects, others on a broad range of general interest topics. In 2009, fewer than three dozen journalists working for digital-native outlets were accredited to the Press Gallery. By 2014, that number had risen to more than 130 – roughly a four-fold increase.

At the same time though, between 2009 and 2014, 19 local newspapers disappeared from the Press Gallery books, reducing the number of states with any local newspaper staff on the Hill from 33 to 29. Since those 2014 figures were tallied, other papers have turned out the lights in Washington, closing their bureau or simply electing not to replace an outgoing correspondent.

Some local papers have reestablished a presence in Washington – eight, between 2009 and 2014. And a handful of the digital start-ups with correspondents in Washington are locally oriented. However, the rolls of the Regional Reporters Association – a group of Washington-based reporters that produce local and regional coverage – sit at 59 in 2015, down from around 200 in the mid-1990s.

For the American public, this translates to more digital options for coverage at the national level as well as options for those who have access to trade publications and specialized information products, but also a continuous chipping away at the number of reporters on the Hill covering the federal government on behalf of local communities.

The findings of this content analysis reveal that coverage by D.C.-based reporters stays more closely tethered to the institution and work of Congress than other reporting in the papers studied, usually with direct quotes from members of Congress. But there are also signs that these reporters are often Beltway-focused, with a tendency to keep the emphasis of the stories aimed at the government and in a way that does not tie the significance of the news back to the local community. But perhaps of more importance to the reader overall is that of all the coverage about federal government appearing in these papers, the portion that comes from D.C. based-reporters accounts for less than 10 percent. Instead, the greatest portion of federal government coverage by far comes from wire service stories.

Short-Circuited Mic | Donald Trump’s pathetic Muslim policy

Republican front-runner Donald Trump deserved every bit of the criticism he caught for his proposal to “shut down” Muslims from entering the country. Denunciations rang (with various levels of intensity) from his side of the campaign trail (South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, for example, called him a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot”) to the Democrats’ side (former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, for example, tweeted that Trump is a “fascist demagogue”), from the Democratic White House (spokesman Josh Earnest called Trump’s plan “disqualifying” of the presidency) to the Republican Capitol (“this is not conservatism,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said).

And by the same token the tyrant of Trump Tower deserved the support he got from one particularly putrid group, white supremacist nationalists. “Finally: Someone speaks sense,” was the take from the Daily Stormer, per Media Matters for America, which rounded up such reactions. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke approvingly argued that Trump just wants to “preserve the heritage of this country.” And the Vanguard News Network (“No Jews. Just Right.”) proclaimed “Trump is beginning to sound like a white nationalist, even more so than before.”

The whole episode is the latest and clearest reminder that Trump is, in a word, pathetic. He represents, to borrow the words of Fox News’ Shepard Smith, “the worst, darkest part of all that is America.” The Spin Cycle agrees wholeheartedly, and The Donald, whose unbelievable brand of political bigotry smacks of new kind of racism, gets a Vitriolic, Short-Circuited Mic!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The Nashville-based firm is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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