The International Council of Shopping Centers forecast a 3 percent sales increase for the traditional November through December holiday shopping period.
However, the ICSC said this year’s season comes with more uncertainty than usual because of factors such as a softening in the economy, improving housing prices and markets, rising gasoline prices, the presidential election and the “fiscal cliff,” which calls for massive automatic spending cuts to the federal budget along with a bevy of tax increases slated for Jan. 1, absent Congressional action.
Michael Niemira, the ICSC’s vice president of research and chief economist, said if Congress resolved the issue quickly, that could “propel this season’s performance far above ICSC’s current expectations.”
The ICSC noted that holiday hiring is highly correlated with holiday spending, and said it appears that retailers will add 8.8 million seasonal jobs this year, up 0.4 percent from a year ago.
In an ICSC consumer survey, it found that almost a quarter of consumers plan to spend more (19 percent) or substantially more (5 percent) on holiday gifts this year versus last year. That is the greatest percentage of consumers reporting they intend to increase spending over the previous holiday season since ICSC began asking the question in 2004.
In the survey, the top three holiday gift items for this year were gift cards, 21.3 percent; apparel, 14.1 percent; and toys and games, 14.1 percent. The ICSC said gift-card redemptions dominate shopping in the post-Christmas period.
ICSC is the leading global trade association of the shopping center industry with more than 55,000 members in more than 90 countries. It includes shopping center owners, developers, managers, marketing specialists, investors, retailers and brokers, as well as academics and public officials.