The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 7, 2013

Holiday sales to rise, but shutdown curbs enthusiasm

(Continued)

The NRF would consider revising the sales estimate to take into account the impact of the shutdown if it persists, especially beyond a few weeks, Jack Kleinhenz, the group’s chief economist, said on a conference call Thursday.

In addition to the political uncertainty, consumers are contending with a 2 percentage-point increase in the payroll tax and rising mortgage rates, after the Federal Reserve signaled in May that it was prepared to start phasing out its monthly bond purchases this year.

While lower-income households have restrained purchases this year because of the increase in payroll tax, Shay said shoppers at all income levels this season will focus on value, whether in the form of discounts, quality or service.

Many retailers, from Macy’s Inc. to Nordstrom Inc. to Wal- Mart Stores Inc., missed second-quarter sales estimates and cut forecasts as consumers preferred to spend on bigger items like cars and home-related products.

The NRF’s projected increase in holiday sales compares with an estimated gain of 3.4 percent by the International Council of Shopping Centers last month, up from 3 percent in 2012. Deloitte has projected sales may increase as much as 4.5 percent for November to January, led by non-store sales from online and catalog retailers, in line with the gain for last year.

Earlier in September, Chicago-based researcher ShopperTrak said sales in stores may advance 2.4 percent over the holidays, the smallest increase since 2009 as customers visit fewer stores. Customer traffic in November and December may decline 1.4 percent from the same period a year earlier, ShopperTrak also said.

To draw in shoppers, retailers may begin offering promotions as early as Nov. 1 this year to take advantage of a shorter holiday season, according to the researcher.

This year, there are 25 days between the day after Thanksgiving — known as Black Friday — and Christmas, compared with 31 days in 2012, and four instead of five weekends. Sales in November and December account for 20 percent to 40 percent of U.S. retailers’ annual revenue, according to the NRF.

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