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Christmas Lights are Bright Spot for Retailers

BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- All those blinking lights, glowing Rudolphs and bright stars are giving the nation's economy a welcome gift this Christmas season.

According to data from the National Retail Federation and BIG Research, the U.S. is on target to spend more than $6 billion of Christmas decorations, up more than 8% from last year and the most spent over the seven years the group has tracked such data.

Going nuts with blinking lights and rooftop Santas? The economy thanks you -- including $1,000 services that willl create your display.

According to estimates by NRF, the average person is expected to spend nearly $47 on holiday decorations and an additional $18 on seasonal flowers such as poinsettias. That's good news for retailers inclduding Lowe's (LOW) and Home Depot (HD) that sell Christmas lights and decorations. It also bodes well for retailers such as Sears (SHLD), Costco (COST) and Target (TGT) that, this season, have started selling live Christmas trees online, with plenty of opportunities to add lights and ornaments to your shopping cart.

Christmas lights have been a lucrative business endeavor since the earliest days of electric light, according to a history compiled by the Library of Congress.

In 1880, Thomas Edison crafted a strand of electric bulbs and decorated his laboratory with them.

In 1882, Edison's business partner, Edward H. Johnson, took the concept a bit further and hand-wired an 80-bulb strand of red, white and blue light bulbs that he dangled around his Christmas tree.

The public, despite its willingness to use lit candles as decorations, expressed safety concerns and were hesitant to embrace electric decorations until 1895, when President Grover Cleveland made the technological leap for the White House Christmas Tree.

The real breakthrough came in 1903, when General Electric (GE) introduced far more affordable lighting kits. Before its entry in the marketplace, the cost of lighting an average Christmas tree would have cost roughly $2,000 in today's dollars, not even including the professional electricians needed to connect the strands to a power source.

Sales of Christmas lights also grew along with the fortunes of New York entrepreneur Albert Sadacca who, in 1917, began what would become the Noma Electric Co., which nearly monopolized the Christmas light market until the 1960s.

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