The holiday season is upon is, and with that comes a busy shopping season. The National Retail Federation expects retail sales through the end of the year — excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants — to increase between 4.3% and 4.8% over 2017 for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. The forecast compares with an average annual increase of 3.9% over the past five years.
Holiday sales in 2017 totaled $687.87 billion, a 5.3% increase over the year before and the largest increase since the 5.2% year-over-year gain seen in 2010 after the end of the Great Recession, according to the National Retail Federation.
Rebecca Leach, executive director of the South Carolina Retail Association, said the increase is “thanks to a healthy economy.” She told GSA Business Report in an email that the season kicked off on Thanksgiving weekend with a strong start, with 165 million Americans shopping between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.
The average shopper spent $313.29 on gifts and other holiday items over the five-day period, down from $335.47 during the same period last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Of the total, $217.37, or 69%, was specifically spent on gifts. The biggest spenders were older millennials and Generation X (35-44 years old) at $413.05.
A survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics shows that while 77% of all consumers surveyed said they would spend the same or more this year, 43% of young adults ages 18-24 and 38% of those 25-34 said they would spend more. Only 9% of those 65 and older are planning to spend more. The survey also found that 50% of consumers who own smartphones or tablets said they would use them to research their holiday purchases.
Leach said the top shopping destinations this season are department stores (42%), online retailers (38%), apparel stores (30%), grocery stores (30%), discount stores (29%) and electronics stores (27%). She said electronics, gift cards, toys and home goods are always popular gifts, but she urged shoppers to be cautious when purchasing gift cards.
“The S.C. Retail Association always recommends purchasing gift cards from a reputable retailer, not a flea market or auction site,” she said. “We also recommend understanding a retailer’s return policy and keeping your receipt or gift receipt.”
The retail industry begins preparing well in advance of the holiday shopping season by bringing in new inventory and temporary workers, according to Leach. The industry expects to add between 585,000 and 650,000 temporary workers nationally. The temporary positions “provide excellent training opportunities to develop future talent for the retail industry,” she said.
In addition to shopping, the National Retail Federation survey found that seven in 10 holiday shoppers plan to engage in charitable activities including donating money and items to a charity or cause. Of those donating, 78% said it would have no effect on their overall holiday spending.
GSA Business Report staff writer Teresa Cutlip contributed to this story.