In two weeks, the annual shopping standoff begins: The holiday season will kick off with the traditional Black Friday specials, and consumers will speak with their wallets about their confidence in their personal financial outlooks, and the US economy.
The National Retail Federation and the International Council of Shopping Centers are both forecasting modest year-over-year gains in holiday sales. Economists at the NRF said they expect a 2.8 percent increase in retail industry sales in the months of November and December. Their forecast includes sales at discount, department, grocery and specialty stores, and exclude sales from outlets such as automotive dealers, gas stations and restaurants.
The ICSC said its metric of industry performance, shopping-center sales, will increase by 2.2 percent during the two-month holiday period.
Both of those forecasts are about half of the gains experienced during last year’s season, when sales had an unexpectedly robust increase amid optimism about the economic recovery. As confidence in that recovery has declined, retailers have tightened inventories in the expectation that consumers will spend less than last year, and will be hunting hard for bargains. Their outlook was reinforced in October by slow sales numbers that missed Wall Street expectations.
In my years covering retail sales as a reporter, one of the things I always found fascinating was the mix of products consumers would buy during the holiday season, and what they were willing to splurge on even if they were tightening their budgets.
Is this going to be an electronics Christmas, a clothing Christmas or a toy Christmas?
What are your plans for holiday shopping this year?
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