Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Business

National retail group predicts up to 4 percent increase in holiday sales

A steady economic recovery has paved the way for a robust holiday shopping season, industry leaders say.

The National Retail Federation is projecting an increase of 3.6 to 4 percent for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion in sales for the November through December period. The forecast, released by the nation's largest retail trade group Tuesday, shows a bump up from $655.8 billion for the same period last year.

"The truth is, across the board, the state of retail is very strong," said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the NRF. While some brands, categories and geographical areas may struggle more than others, the industry is still healthy and making "big investments."

The forecast indicators show a "steady momentum" due to the strength of the economy, retail industry and consumer purchasing behavior, Shay said.

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Likewise, Florida's retail spending is "trending up significantly," said James Miller, a spokesperson for the Florida Retail Federation. Driving that enthusiasm, he said are near all-time high consumer confidence numbers in Florida, red-hot housing markets, record-breaking numbers in tourism, and the lowest unemployment rate in more than eight years.

The state's retail organization will release its own holiday spending forecast in November.

Some of the hot items this season will include affordable and high-end smart phones, video games and other electronics, said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at NRF. Other purchases such as appliances and fashion will continue to be attractive to buyers this season, he said.

Retailers will also get an additional day between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day plus a full weekend for last-minute shoppers as Christmas falls on a Monday this year.

One thing heading down is staffing. Companies will hire between 500,000 and 550,000 seasonal workers this winter, a potential decline from last year's 575,000, estimates the retail group.

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Kleinhenz noted some competitive factors such as the rising cost of health care and housing might reduce the amount of money a family can spend this holiday season.

He also cited a potential drag on spending in states like Florida trying to recover from recent hurricanes.

"We expect the growth in the Southern regions of the state and Jacksonville area to possibly not be as robust as other regions due to the impact of Irma," said Miller.

Contact Tierra Smith at [email protected] tampabay.com. Follow @bytierrasmith.

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