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The Power of the Swiftie Friendship Bracelet

There is no denying that the Taylor Swift Effect is real and it is viral, and widespread…from concert tickets, NFL female attendance, Uber rides, hotel occupancy rates, skating rink sales and even craft store sales.  I think that it’s fair to say that Taylor Swift has the “Midas Touch” and her 24K magic affects even the most unlikely places such as your local or national craft store.  Today’s topic is about the humble Swiftie bracelets and how they have taken the world by storm and the massive effects of these seemingly little things.

Friendship bracelets have been around for a while and was a major 90s trend.  The idea is that kids make them and give them to their friends to show their appreciation for their friendship.  There is usually a certain level of reciprocity involved.  Thanks to Taylor Swift and her Eras Tour, friendship bracelets are making a huge comeback.  In her song, “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” Taylor suggests to “make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it.”  And that is exactly what her loyal fans have done leading to an enormous and sudden surge in demand for jewelry supplies in craft stores like Michaels as well as online retail stores and independent crafters sellerslike Etsy.

Michaels, a major craft retailer in North America, saw its sales of jewelry supplies increase by 40% overall.  The increase in sales also vary by locations with some cities seeing a 300% uptick in sales in the days leading to the concert.  In fact, Michaels has offered online classes to ride the Taylor wave.

Data from eBay and has shown a 15,200% increase in Swiftie friendship bracelet sales.  And the effect is real anywhere songbird Taylor Swift lands—the common theme is that friendship bracelets are flying off the shelves whenever an Eras Tour is nearby.

From lyrics to worldwide phenomenon, I cannot fathom the power of these small, delicate things.  It’s quite powerful actually when we take into account the meaning of these friendship bracelets to Taylor Swift fans, as well as the immense loyalty of her fanbase.  

And in economics, we call these effects externalities.  An externality is defined as the potential cost or benefit that a party may experience as a result of an activity that it has no relation to.  Externalities can be positive or negative. 

In the case of increased sales for big retailers like Michaels and the small business owner, the externality is positive.  Nobody could have foreseen how Taylor’s lyrics could result in astonishing surges in jewelry sales.

There are certain negative externalities to the Swiftie bracelets however.  Some venues only allow fans to wear their Swiftie friendship bracelets and prohibit them from hanging these on D-rings and carabiners as they could pose a safety threat.   Moreover, the plastic beads that are foundational to these bracelets are made of plastic  are made from fossil fuels such as oil and methane.  The effects range from upstream effects from mining and fracking, through the manufacturing process, and finally to the downstream effect when we consider disposal.

Taylor Swift indeed has a movement and her magic reaches far and wide.  In fact, Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman, created a curriculum that explains the economics of Taylor Swift, called Swiftonomics.  Ms. Swift has changed the world with her sheer talent and has the potential to change the world for the better.  It is my hope that through her lyrical talent and musical poetry, she could encourage her loyal fanbase to seek better and more environmentally friendly alternatives to the Swiftie friendship bracelet.  And hopefully, Travis Kielce can help spread the word because it through these friendship bracelets that made “Traylor” possible.

The Gist

  • The Swiftie Friendship Bracelet has caused a worldwide phenomenon in terms of unexpected increased sales for jewelry and crafting supplies (positive externality).

  • These bracelets however can have unintended effects however, including the its effects on the environment (negative externality).

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