Rejuvenated Florida shoppers are expected to increase spending on gifts this season at a faster pace than the rest of the country, according to the Florida Retail Federation's annual forecast.
The federation on Thursday predicted a 5 percent jump in holiday shopping statewide, which would be the biggest increase since 2008 and better than the 4.1 percent increase forecast nationwide.
Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the state trade group, dismissed concerns over wage stagnation and still-high unemployment making cash-strapped consumers reluctant to spend. "We're looking forward to a robust year," McAllister said in a media conference call. "We're going to do well. … The indicators tell us that."
Among those indicators bolstering his confidence: job creation in Florida is up 2.7 percent; the stock market is surging, making consumers feel better about their retirement savings; and the housing market continues to improve, with inventories falling and sales prices rising.
In a sign of housing's rebound, retailers in the home furnishings category reported up to a 25 percent increase in sales over last year.
McAllister offered two reasons Florida will do better than the national norm: seasonal residents and tourists.
Out of 100 million Florida visitors, roughly 20 million will come to the state in the last quarter of the year, driving up retail spending, he said. "The Sunshine State has a real advantage when it compares to other folks."
The biggest trend reshaping the season, McAllister said, is how retailers are stringing out discounts throughout November and December.
"Everything I hear from our members is they will try to have different things, different discounts over different periods," he said. "And most retailers have decided they are going to start discounting earlier."
That's good for consumers, he maintains, since many shoppers try to pay for Christmas gifts out of cash flow week to week. "Discounts along the way are really good for them."
McAllister rejected any backlash about retailers opening on Thanksgiving Day as being overblown. Retailers are only responding to what consumers want, he insisted, and would stay closed on the holiday if demand wasn't there.
Contact Jeff Harrington at [email protected]om or (813) 226-3434. Follow @JeffMHarrington.