Despite COVID-19 spikes, retailers optimistic about holiday shopping

Local News

MIAMI, FL – NOVEMBER 24: Jonathan Mary fixes the sign indicating that there are 30 more days until Christmas at a Walmart store as they prepare for Black Friday shoppers on November 24, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Black Friday, which is the day after Thanksgiving, is known as the first day of the Christmas shopping season and most retailers offer special deals on the day. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C., (WSYR-TV) — As we approach the holiday shopping season, the organization that represents retailers nationwide predicts retail sales will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019.

The National Retail Federation released a report this week that predicted consumers will spend between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion during the traditional holiday shopping season. That’s at least $26.2 billion more than last season when the economy was booming.

Those figures exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“We know this holiday season will be unlike any other, and retailers have planned ahead by investing billions of dollars to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Consumers have shown they are excited about the holidays and are willing to spend on gifts that lift the spirits of family and friends after such a challenging year. We expect a strong finish to the holiday season, and will continue to work with municipal and state officials to keep retailers open and the economy moving forward at this critical time.

The NRF also expects online and other non store sales to increase between 20% and 30%. That reflects an increase of $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion in sales over 2019.

Online sales were already up 36.7 % over 2019 in the third quarter of 2020.

“Given the pandemic, there is uncertainty about consumers’ willingness to spend, but with the economy improving most have the ability to spend,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

“Consumers have experienced a difficult year but will likely spend more than anyone would have expected just a few months ago.”

A Siena College poll released last week found 68 % of those surveyed say this holiday season will be different than past years, but will not be ruined by the virus, believing the spirit of the season will triumph over the pandemic. But the pollsters note “Over a quarter of New Yorkers are coming into the holiday season saying that no matter how hard they try, the pandemic will take the joy out of the holidays,” according to SCRI Director, Don Levy.

“But over two-thirds just won’t let the virus be the Grinch that steals the season this year.”

The Siena poll found 49 % of those surveyed planned to spend $500 or less on gifts, which is virtually unchanged from last year. But pollsters found 32 % planned to spend $1000 or more on gifts. That’s up from the 21% last year.

If you are looking for work during the holiday season, the National Retail Federation reports stores are hiring, though predictions vary widley on the number of positions available.

The NRF says it has encouraged consumers to begin their holiday shopping early, and the organization says 59 % of consumers had started by early November, up from 49 % last year.

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