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December 16, 2021

Mall Santas: the real economic indicator

For all the talk we hear about positive economic indicators – a rise in retail spending, the falling unemployment rate – who can really  say how things are across Canada?

Yes, those factors will help measure our long-term recovery, but when it comes to gauging the mood of a nation, they don’t quite cut it.

Enter: kids. When pressed, no one’s more honest than children, and their trips to the mall Santa Claus this holiday season are now proving to be more telling than any Consumer Price Index or government data.

For the first year of this recession, the downturn’s influence has reached the laps of mall Kris Kringles, where requests for wallet-busters like iPods and Wiis have given way to tempered gift pleas.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the depressed line of children on Santa’s lap these days are now glumly asking for help with their parents’ bills or assistance in keeping their family home.

One girl in Ohio asked Santa, “Can you turn my daddy into an elf?”

“Why?” St. Nick replied.

“Because my daddy’s out of work, and we’re about to lose our house.”

Indeed, while their parents’ money woes are weighing on kids’ requests on Santa’s knee, the humbling forecasts don’t stop there; letters seen in the North Pole mirror the same dismal outlook.

Stationery sent to Santa often arrives in North Pole, Alaska, where parents can order return letters with a North Pole postmark.

“When we had the housing crunch, we saw (letters from kids saying) ‘Please help us stay in our house,’” a North Pole source tells the WSJ. “This year, it’s more job-related.”

Perhaps no interaction best sums up this trend than one at a New Orleans casino between a for-hire Santa and seven-year-old boy.

When the kid asked for shoes, the Santa replied, “Do you want Air Jordans?”

“No, school shoes,” he said. “My shoes have holes in them.”

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...