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Increased food spending, lower gas prices give Florida retailers boost for Independence Day

in Apolitical/Top Headlines by

With Independence Day arriving Tuesday, retailers expect a surge in one of the things Americans do best – eat.

The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) predicts Americans will spend more than $7.1 billion for Independence Day weekend on food items for picnics, barbecues and other celebrations. That’s an increase of about $2 in per-person spending over 2016.

FRF President and CEO R. Scott Shalley said the spending boost will benefit grocers across the Sunshine State,

“Independence Day weekend is the most popular time for family and friends to get together for cookouts, picnics and celebrations, and these survey numbers portend great things for retailers this year,” Shalley said in a statement. “We continue to see year-over-year increases each shopping weekend in 2017, which shows that the economy is doing well and consumers are feeling confident about their own economic situation and willing to spend more this year.”

Numbers from the National Retail Federation annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insight & Analytics, note that as many as 88 percent of those surveyed (an estimated 219 million Americans) will be celebrating Independence Day weekend, with 162 million of them — 66 percent — taking part in a cookout or picnic, spending an average of $73.42 per person, up from $71.34 last year.

Americans will be showing their patriotic spirit with flags and clothing. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers — 65 percent — own an American flag, while more than half (53 percent) will wear some sort of patriotic themed clothing like T-shirts, bathing suits or shoes. Forty percent own some other patriotic themed decorations, and 28 percent say they plan to buy additional patriotic items.

Fireworks are another popular Independence Day activity, despite July 4 falling on a weekday this year. Less than half of Americans — 44 percent — plan to watch fireworks Tuesday night, while 14 percent will watch a parade.

Lower gas prices will also have a noticeable impact on Independence Day activities, with nearly 33 million Americans planning to head out of town for the long weekend, up from 31 million last year. The NRF survey found just 18 percent of Americans are concerned about gas prices, down from 21 percent last year; it is at the lowest level since the survey began in 2004.

Worries about gas prices for Independence Day peaked in 2008 when 59 percent of Americans said they were concerned over the cost of gas.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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