Tony Dobrowolski: Red, white & green?



Red, white and blue are the colors that most people associate with Independence Day. But a little green should be mixed in there, too.

The annual celebration of our nation's birthday, which this year turned into a four-day weekend that ends today, can be a bonanza for certain kinds of businesses.

Despite continued concerns about the economy, it appears that this year's holiday would not be an exception.

According to the National Retail Federation's Independence Day Survey, seven of every 10 Americans planned to celebrate the Fourth of July at either a barbecue, cookout or picnic. The total number is 164 million Americans, a record for that category.

Those numbers indicate that Independence Day is a boon for places that sell picnic, barbecue and cookout items, like grocery stores and supermarket chains.

"Fourth of July is the busiest day of the whole year for me," said Dan O'Brien, owner of O'Brien's Market in Lenox.

O'Brien's generally gets a boost because Independence Day typically features a popular concert at nearby Tanglewood, where crowd favorite James Taylor has often been the artist in residence (Jackson Browne did the honors this year).

"It's just one of those days when it's nonstop and you're constantly running around filling coolers," O'Brien said.

Mona Golub, a spokeswoman for the Price Chopper supermarket chain, which operates six markets in Berkshire County, said Independence Day is considered one of the top five food holidays of the year, along with Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and the Super Bowl.

She isn't sure how much of a bump in sales Price Chopper receives around Independence Day, but that the increase is significant.

"I would not even try and estimate that," she said "But sales do increase around the holiday. Expectations are high that we have specific products that customers are looking for. That's why the holiday week advertisements feature so many steaks, chops, and seafood things to put on the grill. With beverage and snacks, we make a great effort to have those projects in abundance."

Unlike Price Chopper, O'Brien's Market doesn't sell meat. But like other grocery stores nationwide, O'Brien's sees a substantial boost in beverage sales on the holiday. According to the American Beer Institute, $1.36 billion worth of beer was sold in the days surrounding Independence Day in 2012.

"It's pretty much beer, and all your bread items," O'Brien said, when asked what his best selling items are on the Fourth of July.

And the cash register
doesn't stop ringing once Independence Day itself ends.

"The whole weekend's busy," he said.

Yes, folks tend to be in a festive mood on Independence Day. According to the National Retail Federation's survey, 117 million Americans planned to attend the nearest community fireworks celebration this year, while another 38 million intended to take in a parade.

These events also pump money into local economies.

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, hotels, retail shops, boat rental operations, and restaurants located within the vicinity of fireworks displays receive a significant economic bump on Independence Day due to the large number of people who attend these events.

"During the Fourth of July holiday period, many of these local businesses might otherwise be empty or have slow business periods," said APA Executive Director Julie L. Heckman, in a statement posted on the online site, Scottrade.

"However, add a signature fireworks display to the area and BAM -- business is booming," she said.

People are also willing to travel long distances to attend these kinds of events.

Two-thirds of Americans said gas prices would not hamper their Independence Day spending this year, up from 63 percent in 2012, according to the NRF's survey. Although 84 percent of Americans planned to drive to a destination this weekend, AAA projected a 1 percent decrease in the number who planned to drive at least 50 miles from home. But AAA projected that travelers were still expected to spend about $747 this weekend, which is about the same amount they spent last year.

So there you have it. Independence Day weekend means big bucks in the Berkshires and beyond. Go ahead. Add a little green to that red, white and blue.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:,
or (413) 496-6224.
On Twitter: @tonydobrow


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