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NRF predicts merrier holiday shopping season for retailers

Shopping Cart with stateWASHINGTON, D.C. — After a turbulent start to 2014, the National Retail Federation says it expects sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) to increase 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, higher than 2013’s actual 3.1 percent increase during that same time frame.

Holiday sales on average have grown 2.9 percent over the past 10 years, including 2014’s estimates, and are expected to represent approximately 19.2 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion. This would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales would increase more than 4 percent.

“Retailers could see a welcome boost in holiday shopping, giving some companies the shot in the arm they need after a volatile first half of the year and an uneventful summer,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “While expectations for sales growth are upbeat, it goes without saying there still remains some uneasiness and anxiety among consumers when it comes to their purchase decisions. The lagging economic recovery, though improving, is still top of mind for many Americans.

“Recognizing the need to keep household budgets in line, we expect shoppers will be extremely price sensitive as they have been for quite some time. Retailers will respond by differentiating themselves and touting price, value and exclusivity.”

While consumer confidence has been unstable much of the year, improvements over the past few months in key economic indicators will give way to increased spending power among holiday shoppers. Retail sales, jobs and housing data all point to healthy gains.

“Though we have only seen consumer income and spending moderately — and erratically — accelerate this year, we believe there is still room for optimism this holiday season,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “In the grand scheme of things, consumers are in a much better place than they were this time last year, and the extra spending power could very well translate into solid holiday sales growth for retailers; however, shoppers will still be deliberate with their purchases, while hunting for hard-to-pass-up bargains.”

NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using several indicators including, consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. It now includes the non-store category (direct-to-consumer, kiosks and online sales.)

Shop.org has released its 2014 online holiday sales forecast, expecting sales in November and December to grow between 8-11 percent over last holiday season to as much as $105 billion.

Shop.org forecasts sales based on government data including, consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. Holiday non-store sales in 2013 grew 8.6 percent.

According to NRF, retailers are expected to hire between 725,000 and 800,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, potentially more than they actually hired during the 2013 holiday season (768,000). Seasonal employment in 2013 increased 14 percent over the previous holiday season.

“These holiday positions offer hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to turn their seasonal position into a long-term career opportunity in retail,” said Shay.

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