Forecast: Holiday Sales to Rise 3.5 Percent

Holiday sales of general merchandise look like they will increase 3.5 percent this holiday season, according to a forecast from the International Council of Shopping Centers, an influential industry group.

ICSC chief economist Michael Niemira tells JCK that, despite all the mixed news about the economy, consumers have been spending all year.

“We see lots of worry and concern on the confidence side but when you look at the actual spending trends, the picture looks relatively good,” he says. “The holiday season should be a continuation of this pattern.  Short of some major kind of confidence collapse, more so than we have already seen, we don’t see any change the relatively good patterns.”

He notes that in many sectors, including jewelry, the high-end of the business is doing the best.

“We have seen a pick-up in jewelry sales,” he says. “Part of that is from higher prices but overall spending through the stores themselves has been relatively healthy.”

He notes that many consumers have “de-leveraged dramatically.”

“Consumers are in a better position financially despite slow employment growth,” he says. “Those that have jobs are doing a lot better. And now we starting to see a slight pick-up in consumer debt usage, which is a positive trend for sales.”

He notes that last year’s holiday sales rose 4.1 percent, by ICSC’s estimation. However, 2008’s fell 6.1 percent, and 2009’s fell 1.3 percent.

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