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10 Industries that Thrive on Holidays

Ryan Thomas . . . Comments

Attach a notion of “specialness” to something, and people will find a way to throw money at it. This is a principal true of every consumer product with an advertising campaign (“If [such and such a celebrity] drinks it, then it must be pretty special”). But what’s bigger than anything any advertising agency could possibly dream up? A commercial holiday, “commercial” being a term used to discern from any possible religious significance. A commercial holiday is like an all-purpose ad campaign, wherein consumers are expected to buy and subscribe to a variety of pertinent rituals in order to fit in properly. Didn’t get Mom a card for Mother’s Day? Expect borderline excommunication. These beliefs are embedded deep in the fabric of our culture, to where tradition becomes more powerful than any fact or biblical preaching. There’s a lot of money to be made at the exact point where “personal” becomes strictly business; here are ten businesses and industries that are keenly aware of this fact.




Infomercials do a great service: they provide a last-minute option for procrastinating shoppers who can’t think of or hand-make anything thoughtful in time, and need something “gift-like”, stat. Many Christmases could end in tragic, empty-armed disappointment if it weren’t for the bombardment of suggestions that come on the tube after about 3 A.M. Christmas, birthday and graduation gifts can henceforth, and effortlessly, be any assortment of a Snuggy, ShakeWeight or underwater electric razor. Best gifts are the ones that lack gender-specificity; just get 8 of those and Christmas shopping is done. (Warning: people you actually care about won’t appreciate the obvious lack of thought that goes into any one of these gifts, but by all means indulge a coworker).


Professional Photography Studios

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Every family is required to put out a Christmas card every year, or else the neighbors will be baited. A Christmas card captures just how “perfect” a family is, or at least the image of, whereafter they can go back to being terrible and volatile, on the way back from Sears. Only truly gifted artists could make such a fallacy an apparent truth, which is why they get paid the big bucks, and why families are so tickled by the notion of spreading this masterful concoction to everyone in their address book.




Not legal everywhere, these self-contained spectacles are the toast of every Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and patriotic other occasion. After all, nothing spells U.S.A. like Chinese imports. Every fair concludes with them, the mighty “Grand Finale,” and every drunken Summer night spent away from work deserves, and belligerently demands, their presence. Explosions in the sky never disappoint, feeding that animalistic desire for consequence-free fire and destruction, which is why border-runs are so frequent and unstoppable.




The one industry that rarely shuts an eye, hence the red-eye, is the airline industry. More than any other means of travel, it is the most efficient and practical way to travel great distances in a timely, scheduled manner (in spite of how much waiting and security checkpoints must be endured). Every holiday season, seats get booked to maximum capacity, to where the cheapest seat last minute is usually in the thousands (even as sites like Expedia and Travelocity do their best to alleviate this fact). Seeing family and friends is a component of virtually every holiday or festive occasion, and to do so, transportation is a vital, if mundane, consideration in every case. A business built around the essential motions and functions of life will always do unspeakably well for itself, just ask the healthcare or fast food industry.


Video Games


Every holiday season, without fail, stores like Game Stop, Electronics Boutique and Best Buy sell out of every major console, especially right after the latest and greatest one has been released just in time for such a time of the year. Right around November, appeasing mothers cram into malls to snatch up that fancy “game-box” junior’s been talking about, just so the kid can rip it open Christmas morning without a scintilla of surprise or doubt. Wii’s, XBox 360’s, and PS3’s have sold out religiously in mostly every Christmas past, but as no kid seems to be without one these days, it seems right about time Wii 2, Xbox 720, and PS4 make their parking lot-congesting debuts.



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The number one go-to or last resort gift is a visit, or gift card, to some classy-looking restaurant, but usually just the Olive Garden or T.G.I. Fridays. It’s a preferable escape from slaving over a hot stove, a dad-favorite on Mother’s Day, and an ideal date all at about twenty or thirty bucks a plate. It’s just the price that says “I’m not entirely cheap, but I’m not very original either.” Restaurants do very well on special occasions, seasonally that is, and given that there’s always some kind of commercial holiday every few weeks or so, it’s not a bad investment in any case. The food doesn’t have to be great, but dim lights and faint, vaguely romantic music overhead spells Valentine’s Day hot spot.




Tim Allen alone has lined his pockets with a lion’s share of Christmas tinsel, appearing in three progressively terrible Santa Claus movies, as well as a terribly over-acted Christmas with the Cranks (based on a novel?!). Every holiday seems to require a sludge pile of opportunistic films that ride a cheap gimmick with a plot centering around a holiday, and an unceasingly unfunny series of disasters (Four Christmases, Surviving Christmas, Deck the Halls, Fred Claus…you get it).
Christmas is the obvious cash-in, but even lesser holidays are finding distasteful exploitation: Valentine’s Day (the movie of the same name), Halloween (every 3D slasher movie that comes out conveniently on Halloween weekend, not to mention the movie of the same name and every time it is rebooted), Easter (Hop), etc. That’s not to say there’s no such thing as a good holiday movie (It’s a Wonderful Life, Nightmare Before Christmas, Christmas Vacation, Christmas Story, etc.), but Hollywood rarely seems concerned with generating memorable instant classics so much as greasing its own sprockets with transient rubbish and easy money.



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How many times do we binge on marshmallow Peeps and swear to never touch them again, that is until they hit the shelves again in the shape of a Christmas tree or pumpkin rather than a bunny? And when we swear out candy for good, we can never resist that 80% off sale in the center aisle of the local pharmacy. Between candy corn, Peeps, boxes of chocolate, and various other fun-sized sugar-and-carnauba wax-covered sweets, our love for cloistering substances and suckered obligation to incorporate them into our every celebration means only big money for the Willy Wonkas of the world.


Greeting Cards

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What a great enterprise: paying someone else to preconceive the ideal sentiment for any given occasion. What better way to tell someone you care about them than to pay four dollars to let someone say just how so. Somehow they’ve worked their way into every holiday/birthday/ form of congratulations and are somehow considered a “thoughtful” gesture. What would be thoughtful would be to type a personal letter, or get a BLANK card and write in something heartfelt and original. Nevertheless, a trip to the drug store counts just the same.


Liquor Stores and Bars


What’s a holiday without the booze. In fact there are holidays devoted exclusively to the substance (St. Paddy’s Day, with or without green beer), but all usually end in drunken foolishness. While kids look forward to cake, pie, and trick-or-treating, adults look forward to the swift elevation of their B.A.C. levels. Liquor stores and bars thrive more than anyone else on universally-designated “special” days, more so than the unsynchronized birthday or situational cause for celebration. When these big days approach, extra efforts are made to ensure a cornucopia surplus of cases and handles, or else dire consequences be wrought (in the form of bleeding cash registers).

  • Otter

    What about florists? That one would seem obvious.

  • You are cynical as all hell, but your writing is getting better and better, so I guess everything evens out. Nice list, though. Nothing too unexpected except for including T.G.I.F’s in that pseudo-nice restaurant category. I’m not sure what the ones near you look like, but they are essentially bars here. I also liked that “Xbox 720” joke.

  • You mean my idiot sister in law had put no thought into it when she bought EVERY male in the family (5 of us) a shaving kit for Christmas? (I had a full beard at the time).

  • Armin ‘seasons greetings’ Tamzarian

    How about rope makers right around Christmastime, if one is to believe the urban legends?

    And speaking about movies, I reckon the music industry too has its fair share of holiday merchandising. The charts around Christmas are filled with sentimental drivel, (and the occasional RATM song). I bet a lot of people are going a bit berserk the 101st time they hear Mariah Carey ‘sing’ “All I Want for Christmas”.

    Bonus fact: The woman who urged president Woodrow Wilson to make Mother’s day an official holiday in the US, became disillusioned by it later, because in her eyes it had become a ‘Hallmark holiday’, with too much commercialization. According to her, preprinted cards were only sent by people who didn’t care enough to write a real letter.

    • Piotrek

      I actually LOL’d at “nothing spells U.S.A. like Chinese imports”. Incidentally, howbout a list of the most annoying new verbs?

      • YouRang?

        According to urban legend, Japan once named one of its manufacturing towns USA so they could print MADE IN USA on their items. Made them more salable.

  • Utopial

    Airline fares are off the chart… It sucks

  • Omegaman

    Well I don’t have a problem with any of these except Greeting Cards and sometimes Infomercials. They are useless.

  • Gertrude

    As is true across all of this guy’s lists, the writing is just too purposely cynical and aggressive that it makes it very difficult to read.

    • Difficult? Are we reading the same list?

    • prowler420

      Would it be easier if he wrote it in pop-up book form? are you 3 years old?

      • Kobbin

        Are you? Sometimes cynical aggressive articles upset people, that’s what makes this sort of thing difficult to read. I’m sure if someone took that kind of stance to stand on a soapbox and tell you obvious “deep, mindblowing” things, you’d get upset too. Not to say that’s what the author of this list was doing, just that I’ve felt that way about a lot of articles about relationships and “things you learn after you turn 30”. Wow, 30?! You’ve lived so long and you’re so wise! Please, fill me with your profound knowledge!
        [I apologize for this, it just happens so often, and I can’t always control myself. Please excuse me.]

  • Bob

    It’s just too hard to read this when you seem mad at everything. It’s like you gotta push your opinion into everything, it’s not fun to read at all.

    • Yep

      Definitely agree with Bob.
      This lister’s posts are far too subjective and sour.
      Does not fit in with Listverse’s concept.

  • Risch

    Toy stores???

    All of these are fed by the people who indulge in the whole “special day” garbage. Supply and demand…
    I personally LOVE fireworks!!

  • demon

    how bout costumes. Only one holiday a year features them but when halloween does come stores are crammed with them

  • Le Tel

    Yawn, boring list with loads of b*llox and stupidity written. Airlines work on basic economics, supply and demand, Paddy’s day is more then a booze fest if taken seriously but trust the good ol US of A to transform something to such an extent that nobody even nows what its about. Fireworks rock and who the hell is up at 3 int he morning watching infomerrcials anyway (sad gits). As for the rest, blame herd mentality and laziness, not the industry (I also reckon the writer has gotten caught up in at least some of these at some point so I reckon hyprocritical cynics have nowt to say about anything). As always, if you don’t like don’t do it but please stop whining and moaning like a teenager who hasn’t got their way

    • Maggot

      Paddy’s day is more then a booze fest if taken seriously but trust the good ol US of A to transform something to such an extent that nobody even nows what its about.

      St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 commemorates the death of St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. Yes, its origins are that of a “religious holiday”, celebrated as a feast day and a lifting of Lenten restrictions.

      If anything, it was popularized in other countries, including the US in a big way of course, by large Irish immigrant populations. Since the US is such a so-called “melting pot” of descendant of so many other countries and cultures, it’s kind of a misnomer to say that “the USA” did this or that, when really things like this are influenced by those very descendants, as a way of celebrating their own origins, culture, and national pride. In other words, the evolution of the cultural celebration is for the most part originated and influenced by its own people, not some derogatorily inferred “outsider” entity like “the USA” or what have you. And the secular commercialism is not limited to the US either.

      Here is the official Irish website devoted to promoting the annual 3-day St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin:

      It actually sounds like a lot of fun. Parade, arts & crafts, comedy shows, music and concerts, science fair, street theatre artists, 5K race, etc. The “About Us” tab in particular explains what the festival is all about.


      “The principal aim of St. Patrick’s Festival, since its inauguration, is to develop a major annual international festival around the national holiday over which the ‘owners’ of the festival, the Irish people, would stand proud. It sets out to reflect the talents and achievements of Irish people on many national and world stages, and it acts as an exciting showcase for the manifold skills of the people of Ireland, of every age and social background.”

      You really have to dig to find any mention of historical St. Patrick or any link to Christian origins…basically the “Footsteps of St. Patrick” walking tour under the “Events” tab is all I found.

      So tell me…how did the good ol US of A “transform” the Roman Catholic religious significance of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland into this three day festival of patriotic flag-waiving and secular family fun?

      • stromple

        That is not so much just the US. People go on with it here in Oz to. I do sometimes get a tad offended (being from an Irish family), when my friends from especially English backgrounds use it as an excuse to drink.

        Enjoyable list mate, don’t worry about the knockers.

      • Nocturnesthesia

        Holy shit, an intelligent/informed comment in article comments!? I’m surprised, yet impressed.

  • vanowensbody

    Great list. Lottery cards too – sales really pick up at Christmas – great stocking stuffers.

  • I’ve never had a proffessional family portrait (or portrait at all) and I don’t know anyone who has.

    Seems like a lazy list, you’re just listing things everyone knows, there is nothing that’s unexpected so theres no real thought or education.

    People go home for holidays? People buy crappy gifts for one another? wow. what a suprise.

    And St. Patricks day was not created as a holiday devoted to alcohol.

    Just because people drink lots on the day does not mean that is what it was created for.

  • oouchan

    While I agree with some of the items on this list, I disagree with most and the tone of the author just makes this list crappy. If I wanted to have someone bit.ching at me, I would jump on the Fox New discussion board. Seriously….someone needs to get out more and breathe some fresh air. I knew exactly how this list would turn out as soon as I saw the author’s name.

    Could have been a better list.

    • undaunted warrior 1

      Well said – good comment !

  • timmar68

    When I became an adult and started working I bought Christmas cards. It lasted 2 seasons. My god…the postage ALONE was off the charts! And the days of 50 cents cards are over. A really nice card can cost over $3.00!

    It has to be a VERY special occasion before I’ll buy a card (weddings, sympathy…).

    Not to seem like a cheap-o, but do the math. A card once in a great while vs. a lot of cards all year round…no contest.

    I give a nice hand-written note.

  • Dave

    Every classical musician I know (including myself) has 2 busy seasons – Easter and Christmas.

  • Another HOME RUN by opinionated codger, RYAN THOMAS!

    RYAN THOMAS, I would like to subscribe to your blog, as I am sure that it isn’t full of angry, half-thought out rambles and that it is very witty and refers to people as “sheeple” unlike you, RYAN THOMAS, who only dresses like a 1910 gentleman at all times and only listens to a hand-cranked phonograph (“the only music that is pure, like the pop drivel and gangster ‘crap’ music that those fools listen to” you will say, as you *grin darkly* in your magnificently appointed drawing room*.

    You also point out that you don’t own a television and that I should notice that you referred to it as a ‘television’ and not a “TV”, because “TV is a nickname, and nicknames are for friends and television is no friend of mine”

    *you keep calling it your drawing room, but all I see is a bachelor apartment with newspaper taped over the windows, a persistent urine smell and stacks of hand written journals entitled “WHY THE ENTIRE WORLD CAN GO TO HELL FOR ALL I CARE”**

    **up to volume 132!

    • This is funny. I would thumbs up this if Listverse still had that option.

  • Ryan Thomas Sucks

    Why are you still submitting lists? Better yet, why are they still being published! Ryan, you need to get off the opinionated rampage that all your lists seem to have.

    • Truth-Monger

      Much as you hate him, you’re one of his most faithful readers, reading his every list. Your presence as traffic only results in unabashed profits for the website and, consequently, him. Go on chant his name some more.

  • Errie

    I like how people in the comments are bit.ching on how the author bit.ches. If you don’t like this guy’s lists there’s a simple solution: DON’T READ THEM. Your comments will not change his mind about how he writes his lists.

    • ^^^^Ryan Thomas sock puppet

  • curiouslittlerhino

    I completely disagree with no. 1. You do not need a reason to drink. Only in denieal alcoholics need and excuse such as a holiday. Real ones (like me) drink whenever they want. BTW as I write this I’m sipping on a lovely white wine and YES it is 8:51 am at the moment!!!!

  • Every time I see one of your lists posted, the only thing I can think to say is:

    Does someone need a hug?

  • #8 – as someone who’s worked for a fireworks crew from time to time for a few years now I can tell you that November 5th is one busy time

    • Vagabond_Sam

      Nice idea for a list. Would have been nice if it was a little better thought out. I don’t mind the tone or anything, but just seems that the ideas being put forward are ‘almost’ developed to the full extent.

      Also, it’s pretty easy to maintain more global appeal if you remember there are fireworks outside of the USA. Guy Fawkes Night and Chinese New Year spring to mind. And as people have pointed out, Sy Patrick’s Day is not based on alcohol. Irish just like to have fun, right?.

      Lastly, Expedia do nothing to lower prices apart from wave something like $18 in ticketing fees some other agents charge. This may change from country to country, but when I was still a travel agent 6 months ago in Australia (Where I live) this was very true. If expedia is cheaper then an Agent, it isn’t because they are charging less, it’s because the other Agent can;t search for fares properly and needs training. Similarly I could often find cheaper fares by being creative with fares in a way Expedia and many similar sites don’t account for.

      Anyway, good idea, but like a few lists I read here, a little extra development of ideas would really make the list stand out.

  • Horror2.0

    #7 Free Advertising, Thankyou Photo chooser :D

  • jeffthemaori

    An industry that I think thrives at holiday time is religion (and before anyone lays into me about being a typical religion basher, I happen to be religious myself).

    I used to be in retail management and man did the holidays suck. Towards the end of my time there, I would dream about how good it would feel to burn the place down. That was when I stared to realise that it was time to leave. School holidays and Xmas were the worst.

    Anyway, this list was a bit meh. The only thing I liked was the Air New Zealand picture for #7.

    • Kobbin

      I’m religious myself as well, but I do not celebrate religious holidays. Sure, people say they’re about family, the few that they back up, but really the way they approach those holidays adds to stress and makes growing closer to family hard, and sometimes superficial due to the obligation to buy everybody something. Most of the holidays aren’t even accurate, since Jesus couldn’t have been born in the winter time [shepards wouldn’t be out in that kind of cold], and Easter isn’t even consistently on the anniversary of Jesus’ Resurrection. Not only that, but the bible only taught us to observe one anniversary [Jesus’ death], and most of the religious holidays were started by Christendom when they were trying to convert pagans, mixing their holidays in with anniversaries. Christmas began as the winter solstice, and Easter being a fertility celebration, for example.

      I think we should buy presents when we’re thinking of the ones we love, in times where they wouldn’t expect a present. It’s not good to teach others that they somehow deserve one no matter what on specific days of the year. Also, things cost less after holidays. Why waste the money on something that’s just backfiring on children’s sense of appreciation. [Assuming you aren’t making the effort to teach them what the presents mean]
      That’s really all I needed to say.

  • Fred

    Hmmm. Sounds like somebody skipped their therapist appointment to talk about their “holiday attitude”…

  • Travis

    Being from Wisconsin I don’t agree with #1 at all, liquor stores and bars would still do just fine without holidays

  • Drcunt

    Wow some neckbeard made a list as to inflict their whiny little opinion on holidays. Thanks you hipster scumbag.

  • icily

    i didnt find the list sour, its just the plain truth. Even though greeting cards are a bit stupid i feel as if i have to send/give them or i will come across as rude.

  • Anthony

    How about the companies make or shops that sell decorations.

  • Mabel

    What the H3LL is that picture on #5?! Haunted sushi?

  • Anjang Akuan

    If you are really trying to write the list, then please do so. No need to bore and annoy others with your “oh-so-wise” cynics. I don’t know about others, but i am not even slightly amused by your childish display. Sounds very much like an amateur writer who just discovered cynical tools, or, like a clueless teenager who discovered sex for the first time.

    Besides, your so called “jokes” are not that great anyway.

  • Parad0xfool

    Flowers, music, books.

  • whatevs

    Agree with what Anjang said. Good writing doesn’t mean being pseudo-bitter/smug, and wit isn’t about being ‘cynical.’ Stick to interesting list material and maybe you won’t have to spend so much time trying to be dorothy parker.

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