How Much Does It Cost to Stage Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
The 2016 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Rex Shutterstock

Ever wonder how much it costs Macy’s to pull off its Thanksgiving Day parade?

Close to 3.5 million people gathered in New York City last year to watch the parade’s giant balloons and floats, while 50 million others across the country tuned in to view it on TV. Macy’s estimates the turnout will be similar this year. According to a study overseen by online shopping site Ebates.com, the parade’s cost in 2016 was about $10.4 million to $12.3 million.

While the site did not arrange for a 2017 study, an Ebates spokesperson told Footwear News that costs should not vary too much from year to year. Below, using Ebates’ 2016 report, we highlight key spending estimates  for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade:

Making up one of the most beloved features of the parade, each new giant cartoon character balloon costs about $190,000. Many of the parade’s balloons make a repeat appearance: A balloon that’s reused from a previous year can cost a company that is helping Macy’s offset the expense through a sponsorship about $90,000. This year the parade will have its beloved Charlie Brown and SpongeBob Squarepants balloons alongside ones featuring new characters such as Olaf from “Frozen” and Jett from “Super Wings.”

The size of the balloons also figures into the parade’s steep price tag. Each balloon requires 300,000 to 700,000 cubic feet of helium, amounting to at least $510,000 being spent for the floating gas alone.

Floats often feature performances by celebrities, and each one can cost $30,000 to $100,000 to construct, depending on the display. This year’s celebrity appearances will include Jimmy Fallon, the Goo Goo Dolls, 98 Degrees and the cast of the Broadway musical “Anastasia.”

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade The Pikachu float from the 2016 parade. Rex Shutterstock

Costumes, including one for a Santa Claus at the parade’s finish, have been valued at $2 million.

The parade also requires a lot of people power. More than 10,000 individuals march in the spectacle, while 8,000 volunteers (with Macy’s employees making up half of them) help put on the parade. The police presence, which Mayor Bill De Blasio recently said would increase after an October terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan, is provided without charge by the City of New York.

While the Macy’s corporation reported $25.7 billion for the 2016 fiscal year, the retailer has been struggling with its sales over the last few years. At the start of this year, the Macy’s announced plans to cut more than 10,000 jobs and close at least 100 stores. Ebates has estimated the parade resulted in Macy’s forking over $138,573 in property taxes in 2016.

Macy’s has confirmed that this year’s parade will rely on more than 8,000 volunteers but declined to comment on cost specifics.

“We are unable to disclose any costs, as we view the Parade as a gift to the city of New York and viewers nationwide,” Julie Strider, vice president of media relations, told Footwear News.

(Estimates for this story are sourced from Ebates’ 2016 study.)