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Melbourne Cup a winner for national economy

Melbourne Cup alcohol 2013
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If you’re wondering whether the Melbourne Cup is a worthwhile national exercise, consider this.

Leading into the Cup last year, racegoers spent $53.1 million on looking good. According to the Victoria Racing Club, punters spent that money on more than 62,000 hats and fascinators; 60,000 pairs of shoes; 50,000 dresses; 
30,000 items of jewellery; 27,000 ties; 21,000 handbags; 18,000 suits; 17,000 items of underwear; 14,000 shirts; 11,000 pairs of sunglasses and 13,000 pairs of socks and pantyhose.

Sure, it’s the race that stops a nation, but experts say the champagne-soaked, week-long party at Flemington is a boon for the entire economy, even when you account for the millions of days off, sickies and early knock-off times it’s responsible for.

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The first Tuesday in November is a public holiday in Melbourne, but the holiday spirit spreads to other capital cities, inspiring workers in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and beyond to call it a day well before 3.40pm, when the contenders anxiously fill the starter’s gate.

Industry Super Australia senior economist Matt Saunders crunched the numbers for The New Daily and found that if all office workers outside Victoria took four hours off after the race, the national economy would shrink by 0.05 per cent.

But once the nationwide cash splurge is taken into account, the numbers go into the black, giving a modest boost to the economy, Mr Saunders said.

And when you consider the “long-lasting intangible benefits” to office morale, such as the glass or two of bubbly with your workmates, a positive effect is easy to predict, he said.

That’s a view shared by Innes Willox, CEO of the Australian Industry Group.

“It has an obvious cost and productivity impact on workplaces because of the loss of production,” he said. “[But] most would probably view the race day as a positive at work for staff morale.”

Indeed, any productivity losses are more than regained by the boost to consumer spending.

Frocked-up fillies, dapper gents

Melbourne Cup women fashion 2013
The fashion spend makes up for the Cup’s lost productivity. Photo: AAP

IBISWorld senior industry analyst Ryan Lin told The New Daily that racegoers are investing more in fashion and grooming, especially men.

“Men are stepping up their dress game when it comes to preparing and attending the races,” Mr Lin said, with extra being spent on hair, grooming and toiletries.

And Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman told The New Daily that the Australian economy “absolutely” comes out ahead thanks to increased spending, and while Victoria gets “the lion’s share” it is by no means the only state to benefit.

Even the stockmarket benefits, according to a study published in 2007 by Griffith University’s Professor Andrew Worthington.

Professor Worthington found that over the 45 years from 1961 to 2005 the “exuberance” of Cup Day boosted stock returns “significantly higher” compared to other Tuesdays in November, Tuesdays in other months, and other weekdays throughout the year.

Racing Victoria forecasts that a total of $287 million will be gambled on Melbourne Cup Day across all approved operators. New South Wales and Victorian TABs are likely to rake in about $180 million of that kitty on the day, TABCorp spokesman Nicholas Tzaferis said.

The race that draws the world

Gai Waterhouse celebrates Melbourne Cup win
The Melbourne Cup attracts visitors to Australia from around the globe. Photo: AAP

Victoria Tourism Industry Council chief executive Dianne Smith told The New Daily that the “signature event” draws visitors from across the globe and is of “great interest” to the Chinese market.

More than half (54 per cent) of the 105,000 people who attended the Melbourne Cup last year were from interstate or overseas, which from a tourism perspective is “vitally important”, Ms Smith said.

“For many of these visitors, it is the reason they are coming to Australia, so it’s the attraction and clearly that’s great for the whole country, as well as great for Victoria.”

All of which leads to a simple conclusion. If public holidays are this good for the nation, we should all be writing letters to the PM to get a few more of them.

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