And though holiday sales in the last three years have been off sharply from pre-recession levels, prognosticators are betting the 2011 season sees a return to something resembling normal.
The National Retail Federation summed up their 2011 holiday sales forecast with one word: average. However, that description is welcome after several years of turmoil and uncertainty in the retail sector.
The NRF predicts that holiday sales will increase 2.8 percent this year over last. That figure is less than the 5.6 percent jump experienced between 2009 and 2010, but means consumers will shell out more than $465 billion nationwide between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Moreover, the NRF reports that retailers are expected to hire between 480,000 and 500,000 employees for the season, an important ingredient in any economic recovery.
“Retailers are optimistic that a combination of strong promotions and lean inventory levels will help them address consumer caution this holiday season,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “While businesses remain concerned over the viability of the economic recovery, there is no doubt that the retail industry is in a better position this year to handle consumer uncertainty than it was in 2008 and 2009.”
Closer to home, the Retail Association of Nevada is predicting a 6.5 percent growth in consumer spending statewide during the holiday shopping season. Translated into cash, that equals about $1.5 billion in spending across the Silver State, or about $764 per person (18 and older).
“The holiday season is really a barometer of discretionary spending habits,” said Bryan Wachter, RAN director of government affairs, adding that any evaluation of how well the economy is performing must begin with a look at how much people choose to spend rather than what they must spend to pay bills and survive. “That’s kind of the importance of Black Friday on the overall economy.”