The National Retail Federation is predicting a robust 4 percent increase in Christmas sales for 2014. That would be an improvement over the disappointing 3 percent return reported for last year.
“Retailers could see a welcome boost in holiday shopping, giving some companies the shot in the arm they need after a volatile first half of the year and an uneventful summer,” said NRF President-CEO Matthew Shay in a statement.
Online sales, meanwhile, could grow as much as 11%, an acceleration from 2013’s 8% increase, according to shop.org, a division of NRF.
The NRF said that an improving economy would drive the gains.
“In the grand scheme of things, 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,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz in a statement.
Consumers and observers would be advised to take these projections with a grain of salt, however. Last year’s prognostications were similar and it has become something of a Christmas tradition for pre-season surveys to convey positive information in hopes that they become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Each of the last 8 Christmas seasons have been predicted to do better than they actually performed, with January sales results listing one reason or another for missed projections. The signals are all there for another tough season ahead.
Unemployment in the U.S. is reported down to 5.9% but experts say that indicator is representative of more people dropping from job search and unemployment statistics because they either are no longer in the workforce or have given up looking. “Real” unemployment numbers indicate a national rate of around 11% unemployment. Likewise, wages are down and inflation is up, all turning to another tough season ahead.