Beyond food, fuel, and maybe used car prices there are not a lot of areas where I see any relief on the inflation front. This is especially true when looking at leisure and entertainment activities.
As younger generations focus their spending habits on experiences rather than objects, tickets for live entertainment, sporting events, and movies are climbing. The Bureau of Economic Analysis is predicting that American consumers will spend a whopping $95 billion on live event tickets this year.
If you grew up as a fan of live concerts you are probably in sticker shock. An average ticket price for a live concert this summer stood at $120.11, according to Pollstar. That is a 7 percent increase compared to 2022, and 27 percent higher than in 2019. However, that doesn't account for the steep price increases to see the most popular entertainers.
Just last week my brother-in-law, Ron, posted this on Facebook: "Insanity! Stadium concerts for the Stones. Presale tickets in upper level, over $350!" Taylor Swift commanded an average face value ticket price of $254. An Eagles ticket averaged $239, while the "Boss" fetched $226 a ticket on average. Of course, those were prices if you were lucky enough to buy them directly and not in the resale market. Swift resales averaged $1,095, while Beyonce tickets were going for $380.
Visits to theme parks have also increased. If you took your family to one of Disney's themes parks this year you know how expensive that five-day vacation has become. On average, it costs a family of four $6,300 or more, and those prices are continually increasing.
The company is doing its best to get more money out of visitors by offering extras like features that allow paying guests to skip some lines. Other less obvious increases involve the higher prices of souvenirs, food, and parking.
Besides, these costs, there are also peripheral costs like higher prices for airline tickets, hotel rooms, and gas (if you are driving). Scott, a friend and colleague of mine, has taken his wife and daughter to Disney in Florida several times. Here is his take: "It depends how fancy you want to get. For the three of us, including flights, it can be $5,000 to $8,000."
I am not picking on Disney. Consumers who visited other theme parks, and even campgrounds, have had to shell out about 3.4 percent more this year than last, and more than 6 percent since 2019.
But price gouging seems rampant in other areas as well. As the holidays approach, retailers, big and small, both national and local are using the "experience" to up prices. Take live trees for example. Smelling that pine in your living room while you unwrap presents will cost you more again this year. Canadian wildfires and "labor costs" are the excuses given.
In Boston, for example, a 7-foot balsam is going for $170, while a Fraser fir of the same height is fetching $220. Of course, if you would like an 8-foot balsam fir delivered to your doorstep there are a couple of places on the internet that will charge you a mere $325-plus.
If you haven't noticed how crazy holiday prices have risen, just take a stroll around your local holiday gift fair. On my excursion, I was offered the chance to buy wooden cutting boards starting at $175 apiece. Locally made cheese could be had for $12 a slice and a one-ounce vial of herb-infused salt for $12. If that did not appeal to you there were always bars of scented soap for $33 each.
And while most of us complain about prices, we continue to pay for our experiences and luxuries. Of course, everyone experiences inflation differently. Your rate of inflation depends on where you live and what you buy. Lower-income Americans, for example, suffer the most from rampant price rises. They spend more of their income on necessities. For those who are barely making ends meet, the experience of rock concerts and excursions to Disney or Three Flags is not even contemplated. For them, about the best experience they could have is putting food on the table or having enough gas money to get to work.
Bill Schmick is the founding partner of Onota Partners, Inc., in the Berkshires. His forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Onota Partners Inc. (OPI). None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-413-347-2401 or email him at email@example.com.
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