WASHINGTON -- Some recent predictions for Christmas sales this year say there will be a modest increase in consumer spending. According to the National Retail Federation, the 2012 holiday forecast of a 4.1% gain is higher than the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 3.5%, though still lower than last year's, which jumped a surprising 5.6%. For those vending and amusement operators reliant on crowded malls, big-box stores and central shopping districts, this is good news indeed.
"This is the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession. In spite of the uncertainties that exist in our economy and among consumers, we believe we'll see solid holiday sales growth this year," said NRF president and chief executive Matthew Shay. "Variables including an upcoming presidential election, confusion surrounding the 'fiscal cliff' and concern relating to future economic growth could all combine to affect consumers' spending plans, but overall we are optimistic that retailers' promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers."
The figures released by the NFR estimate total retail sales reaching $586.1 billion during the busy shopping season. That figure is tempered by consumer uncertainty regarding the economy. "There's still some general anxiety amongst consumers when it comes to how the state of the economy is impacting their spending plans, but retailers can expect to see excitement around their promotions and plenty of bargain hunters both online and in stores in the coming months," Shay said.
While the NFR also includes online sales, which are of little help to vending operators, the International Council of Shopping Centers has released its own cautiously optimistic report. According to the ICSC, U.S. Christmas sales during November and December will increase 3% over last year to hit some $463 billion. This figure is roughly consistent with the NFR report once the online sales are factored out of the equation.
Interestingly, retailers themselves are brightening the predictions by raising the number of temporary workers hired to help out during the Christmas season. The estimated total amounts to some nearly 9 million temporary workers with stores like Walmart and Kohl's adding 50,000 seasonal jobs apiece.