NRF: Solid Holiday Season Forecast

U.S sales for the holiday 2017 season will increase 3.6 percent to 4 percent over last year. Excluding autos, gas and restaurants, U.S. retailers stand to rack up $678.75 billion in sales during the upcoming holiday season, according to a forecast from the National Retail Federation.

The predicted 2017 sales performance might equal the 2016 holiday sales increase of 4 percent or it might dip slightly below it, according to the forecast, which was released on Oct. 3.

Retailers are in a good position to have a good season because time will be on their side. They will have 32 days after Thanksgiving—the official start of the holiday season—and Christmas Eve. The schedule offers one more sales day than the 2016 retail season, according to an NRF statement.

But recent events might hobble sales performance. Hurricane Harvey damaged oil refineries in Houston recently, and the price of gas has increased, Jack Kleinhenz, NRF’s chief economist, said during a conference call with journalists. Those who lost homes in Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida may not have funds to buy gifts this holiday season.

Seasonal hiring is forecast to dip, Matt Shay, the NRF’s chief executive officer, said. In 2016, retailers added 570,000 seasonal positions. For the upcoming season, they are forecast to add between 500,000 and 550,000 holiday jobs. Shay predicted most retailers would have a lot to cheer about with the upcoming holiday season.

“It’s not as robust as we’d like to see it. But it is solid,” Shay said of the U.S. market. “We think the overall economy is in a very good place. The current state of retail is positive.”

In a statement, Kleinhenz said the American consumer is in a good place. “Consumers continue to do the heavy lifting in supporting our economy, and all the fundamentals are aligned for them to continue doing so during the holidays,” he said. “The combination of job creation, improved wages, tame inflation and an increase in net worth all provide the capacity and the confidence to spend.”

The NRF builds its forecasts on information such as consumer credit, disposable personal income and previous monthly retail sales. E-commerce and kiosk sales are included in the information for the NRF’s monthly sales.