Holiday Sales Looking Good, Forecasts Say

Retailers should receive a shot in the arm from holiday sales this year, according to forecasts from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and consultants Accenture. 

The NRF predicted that sales would jump 4.2 percent, which would top last year’s 3.1 percent increase, as well as the 2.9 percent average logged over the last decade.

“There is still room for optimism this holiday season,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz in a statement. “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.”

Still both Kleinhenz and NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay warned that buyers will stay on the hunt for bargains and be “extremely price sensitive.”

A survey by Accenture found that 25 percent of U.S. consumers plan to spend more on holiday shopping this year, compared to 20 percent who said they would spend more last year. 

As for where they plan to shop for holiday gifts, 71 percent of shoppers were headed to discount retailers, while 58 percent plan to patronize online-only retailers (compared to 50 percent last year). Nearly half (47 percent) plan preholiday trips to department stores—up from 35 percent in 2013, and a nice comeback for that sector. 

But as NRF warned, respondents are still watching their wallets. Nearly all respondents (96 percent) said that discounts will be important to their purchasing decisions, and more than one in four (29 percent) said that it would take a discount of 50 percent or more to persuade them to buy. 

Other findings: 

– Consumers are geared up about Black Friday, with an impressive two-thirds saying they planned to shop on the day after Thanksgiving, compared to 55 percent who said they would last year.

 – Many consumers are early birds, with 49 percent telling pollsters they started the majority of their holiday shopping in September.  

– Nearly two-third of those polled (63 percent) said that they will use a desktop or laptop to holiday shop, up 16 percentage points from last year. Twenty-four percent plan to use a smartphone, up from 18 percent last year—and 13 percent said they will use social networking sites to assist their purchases.

– Half of survey respondents (50 percent) said that they would be willing to try or use mobile checkout this holiday. 

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JCK News Director