The Cost of Being Festive: We’re on Pace to Drop $6 Billion on Inflatable Santas and Other Decorations

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The continued uncertainty and overall dreariness of the economy doesn’t seem to be dampening consumers’ holiday spirits. Nor is it stopping shoppers from stocking up on LED holiday light displays, inflatable lawn decorations, and artificial and freshly cut Christmas trees alike. Overall, décor sales are expected to rise more than 8% for the 2011 holidays—totaling roughly $6 billion, the most since such data has been tracked.

The combined cost of all of those Christmas trees, strings of lights, and plastic reindeer sure does add up. Bloomberg reports:

This year U.S. consumers will spend $6 billion on decorations, the most in at least seven years, according to the National Retail Federation, which began tracking the data in 2005.

By the time Santa has dropped off everyone’s gifts, holiday décor sales may have risen by 8.1% compared to last year—when sales had also risen from the previous year.

Everything’s relative, though. Americans collectively spent nearly $7 billion on Halloween, though that includes candy and costumes, rather than just decorations. The Halloween spirit—as measured by consumer spending—has actually been rising much faster than that of the winter holidays. Total spending on Halloween has more than doubled since 2005.

(MORE: Holiday Store Window Design: Designed to Make You Stop (and Spend))

In any event, consumers are spending more on both holidays. For Christmas, it appears that plenty of households actually are buying into the trend of having more than one Christmas tree in the home.

Another Bloomberg story cites data from research firm IBISWorld, which notes that spending on Christmas trees will rise this year at the fastest pace (3.1%) since before the recession. In total, Americans will cough up $3.4 billion on trees—$800 million on real ones, and $2.6 billion on artificial versions.

Just because consumers are spending more on artificial trees, it doesn’t mean that they’re buying more of the fake spruces. The National Christmas Tree Association, which does a very impressive job of bashing artificial trees (85% are imported from China, lead poisoning and flammability are concerns), points out that real trees outsell artificial ones by a 3-to-1 margin. It’s just that fake trees cost much more, so they surpass real trees in terms of annual sales.

(MORE: Now We’re Supposed to Have Two Christmas Trees?)

The rise in overall Christmas tree sales this year could serve as an indication that the economy is faring well, or at least not too poorly. In the early winter of 2008, at the height of the panic, spending on Christmas trees dipped by 11%.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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