Average household spends on Kwanzaa

In the United States, most individuals who celebrate Kwanzaa celebrate Christmas as well. It is estimated by the National Retail Federation that 93 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. This is does not mean that all celebrants are Christians — yet they do plan on some Christmas shopping. This infographic from 2011 shows that Americans spend an average of $465.5 billion on Christmas, which is about the size of Belgium’s gross domestic product. This equates to a typical person spending $516 on gifts.

After that amount of spending, most people are too tapped out financially to provide a significant monetary contribution to the Kwanzaa holiday. According to the official Kwanzaa website, gifts are mainly to children and always include a book and a heritage symbol, which would also cut down the total amount spent. At the same time, Kwanzaa greeting cards are also popular for celebrating the period. The Greeting Card Association estimates that there were two billion boxed Christmas cards sold in 2011. That is an average of 8.4 Christmas cards per adult.

If we extrapolate this data and assume it can be applied in a similar manner to Kwanzaa, then about 39.5 million Kwanzaa greeting cards are shared during the holiday season. If we assume that the average cost of a greeting card is $4, then this would equal a value of close to $158 million. Once again this number is probably on the high side given the high prevalence of greeting cards exchanged for Christmas, yet suggests that millions of dollars are at stake when it comes to the Kwanzaa holiday.

For other gift spending, for the sake of argument let us assume that the average amount spent on Kwanzaa gifts is about 15 percent of the total amount spent on Christmas gifts. Therefore, if an average of $77 is spent for Kwanzaa gifts per person, this equals a gift spend of nearly $363 million. Combining this amount with the cards total yields almost $520 million. While not much compared to the $465.5 billion spent on Christmas, that could be a sizable amount for holiday-focused black businesses.

Given the lack of statistics on Kwanzaa shopping, there are a lot of assumptions here that are questionable. Yet, it is safe to assume that the amount spent on Kwanzaa is far less than $1 billion annually. Given that the buying power of the black community is approaching $1 trillion, this is an extremely small number, especially compared to the amount spent on Christmas.

However, we should not use sales numbers to judge the work of Mr. Karanga. He created a much needed holiday, especially for the turbulent times of the 1960s, and that is to be commended. Holidays should not be about spending anyway. As is especially the case with Kwanzaa, holidays are times to reflect on the spiritual values these times embody.

Nevertheless, given the importance of supporting black businesses, Kwanzaa is a perfect opportunity to do so. And Ujamaa, the fourth day of Kwanzaa, is the ideal value to keep in mind this Kwanzaa season and the next as we consider means to keep black buying power circulating among African-American businesses.

Lawrence Watkins is the founder of Great Black SpeakersGreat Pro Speakers, and co-founder of Ujamaa Deals, which is a daily deal site that promotes black-owned businesses. He graduated in 2006 from The University of Louisville with a B.S. in electrical engineering and earned his MBA from Cornell University in 2010. Lawrence currently resides in Atlanta. You can follow him on Twitter @lawrencewatkins