Weather, Monday Paint St. Patrick's Day Blue

A St. Patrick’s Day that falls on a Monday is bound to be a bit of a bummer. And combined with the harsh weather still assaulting much of the U.S., it means consumer spending this March 17 will be essentially blah.

Still, some 55% of American adults intend to celebrate the day somehow, reports the National Retail Federation -- roughly 133 million people. While more than 80% say they intend to wear something green, they won’t be spending much. The NRF survey, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, predicts spending will be $4.8 billion, essentially flat with last year.

Weather is likely to dampen results. For the first time in its 80-year history, for example, Chicago’s Wendella Boats says it must delay the start of its season, which had been scheduled to kick off March 14. The company reports that its boats are frozen in. And that means its annual St. Patrick’s Day Cruise, a close look at the city’s annual dyeing of the Chicago River, is, as they say, on ice. (The company says it did make arrangements with Howells and Hood, a bar located in the Tribune Tower, “to help its displaced passengers find an alternate location to enjoy this annual Chicago River tradition.”)

On average, the NRF says it expects partiers to spend $35. Overall, the most popular way to get their Irish on is in the kitchen, with more than 33% planning to prepare a special meal; 30% going to a bar or restaurant, and slightly more than 20% each decorating their home or office or attending a private party. As usual, green beer and shamrocks matter most to Gen Y, with 77% planning to celebrate, and 90% getting their green on. Of those between 25 and 34, 45% will head to a party at a bar or restaurant.

Meanwhile, weather woes continue to dog many retailers. The just-released MasterCard Spending Pulse reports that in February, retail sales inched up just 2.7% from the same month a year ago, its weakest reading in a year. 

“The weather is clearly having a negative impact on regional results, as spending in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Great Plains has been the weakest,” it says in its release. “However, this trend could quickly reverse course when the weather improves, given that employment has been stable and the housing and equity markets have been strong.”

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