Retailers Hope For Strong Holiday Season As November Sales Beat Expectations

U.S. retailers are looking forward to a strong holiday season this year after new numbers show higher than expected sales for November.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail and food sales were up 5.8 percent last month over November 2016, according to advance estimates. And, sales were up a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent from October of this year.

“This has been an impressive start to the holiday season, perhaps the best in the last few years,” Jack Kleinhenz of the National Retail Foundation said in a statement. The group, which represents retail stores, released its own similar estimates Thursday. “The combination of job and wage gains, modest inflation and a [healthy] balance sheet along with elevated consumer confidence has led to solid holiday spending by American households,” he added.

According to The Wall Street Journaleconomists had predicted only a 0.3 percent increase in sales for November.

Sales were up 2.1 percent over the previous month at electronics stores and 1.2 percent at furniture stores, the agency reported.

Surveys show customers are the most confident they’ve been since 2000, according to The Associated Press. The most recent unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the country’s unemployment rate at 4.1 percent in November, the same as it was in October. It’s the lowest unemployment rate since before the economic recession that began a decade ago.

In a sign of confidence in the economy, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates this week for the third time this year and the fifth time since the economic crisis.

Though to add some caution to the optimism, the Journal noted that strong spending “is outpacing income gains, meaning Americans are saving at a slower rate, which could lead to a spending slowdown later or the threat of rising debt levels.”

The newspaper also said that “high inventories and a slowdown in purchases by international tourists amid a rising dollar” contributed to a poor holiday season for retailers last year.

The National Retail Federation said sales for this year’s holiday season, which they define as November and December, “are on track to meet or exceed NRF’s holiday sales forecast for an increase between 3.6 and 4 percent over last year.”

A Bit of Ho Ho Ho fo the Retail Industry

Stores got a bit of yuletide cheer as employment numbers recently released by the government show that nearly 13,000 retail jobs were added to payrolls in November – due mostly to seasonal shopping.

With that number, the National Retail Federation said the retailers’ annual hiring of temporary holiday workers is on track to reach the high end of the the NRF’s forecast of between 500,000 and 550,000 temporary jobs for the season. “This was one of the strongest gains we’ve seen all year,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

Also, warehouse and distribution center employment increased by 8,100 jobs in November but did not count as retail jobs even if the workers were employed by retailers.

When looking at the entire economy, U.S. companies added a healthy 228,000 jobs in November. The NRF is forecasting that holiday sales will inch up by 3.6 percent to 4 percent this season.

 

By Deborah Belgum

Apparel News

Retailers’ wish lists feature early holiday shopping

Most consumers haven’t bought their Thanksgiving turkey yet, but it’s already the holiday shopping season in the minds of many retailers.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and others are aggressively advertising holiday specials online and in stores to get a jump on the spending spree that remains a k.

Black Friday has become black November,” quipped Steve Barr, head of the U.S. retail and consumer sector at PwC, the accounting and advisory firm. That’s because so many retailers are rolling out their holiday price cuts well in advance of Black Friday, once the traditional start of holiday buying.

Although Black Friday remains a big shopping day, its import has been eroded by ever-earlier bargains, the growing clout of online shopping and retailers’ fear that the other guy is getting a jump on them. That competition anxiety was behind the push five years ago to open stores on Thanksgiving Day, and merchants are proving again this year that they can’t open their physical stores early enough to launch the season.

Wal-Mart, Kohl’s Corp., Toys R Us Inc. and several others plan to open on Thanksgiving again this year — some even earlier than in 2016 — a move that in past seasons drew grumbling from some consumers and retail employees unhappy with retail’s “Christmas creep.”

Brick-and-mortar stores are expected to lose more ground this year to the convenience of shopping by phone or computer.

E-commerce has become so pervasive that U.S. online retail sales this holiday season are expected to reach $107.4 billion this year, a 13.8% jump from last year and the first time they’ll top the $100-billion mark, the research firm Adobe Analytics forecasts.

Altogether, U.S. holiday retail sales (those for November and December) should climb between 3.6% and 4% this year, to as much as $682 billion, the National Retail Federation forecasts.

The economy is helping.

“The combination of job creation, improved wages, tame inflation and an increase in net worth all provide the capacity and the confidence [for consumers] to spend,” Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF’s chief economist, said in a statement.

And retailers are trying to cover every shopping preference and garner every possible sales dollar as they launch the holiday spending season, which can account for about 40% of a retailer’s annual revenue.

Indeed, it would be a mistake to confuse the woes of the retailers’ physical stores — which partly reflects that too many locations were built to survive the shift to online — with the notion that Americans no longer care as much to step foot in stores for “doorbusters” and other deeply discounted goods, analysts said.

After all, if online shopping is all the rage, why bother opening stores on Thanksgiving Day?

Because “a website can’t give you goosebumps” like those experienced in touching, buying and taking home the electronics, apparel and other goods bought during the holidays, Barr said.

“Let’s say you and I both want to buy a TV on Thanksgiving Day,” he said. “You go online and it’s going to be delivered in two to three days. I go to the store, get my TV and I’m home in an hour and watching it. It’s an emotional interaction, and that’s what they’re appealing to on Thanksgiving Day.”

The International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group, said its latest survey indicated that 84% of shoppers on Thanksgiving weekend expect to head to stores. And 85% of the respondents said they expect that when they get there, their purchases will depend on deals or promotions.

That expectation of seeing tantalizing price cuts is partly the fallout from the surge in internet shopping, a segment in which the likes of Amazon.com have put huge downward pressure on prices.

Americans’ online purchases on Cyber Monday alone will climb 16.5% from last year to $6.6 billion, making it the largest online-shopping day in history, Adobe estimates.

The term “Cyber Monday” was coined by staffers at the National Retail Federation in 2005 when they noticed a jump in online sales following the Black Friday weekend.

Many consumers at the time had relatively slow internet connections at home. It became apparent that when they returned to work or school Monday, where they had computers with faster internet speeds, they shopped online.

Retailers seized on the trend and began heavily promoting Cyber Monday as another day for major holiday discounts. And now, of course, fast internet connections are ubiquitous on smartphones, tablets and desktop computers.

This year, Adobe Analytics expects that purchases made on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets will account for 54% of all e-commerce holiday sales — the first time they’ll surpass online sales made on desktop machines.

Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. were among the retailers that released Black Friday promotional prices on hundreds of items last week — sale prices that will return on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

Best Buy, for instance, was selling a 43-inch LG television at its “Black Friday price” of $279.99, which it claimed was a $150 savings.

Target and other retailers also heavily promoted “sneak peeks” of their Black Friday advertising fliers on their websites in hopes of luring consumers when Black Friday arrives.

Not every retailer will be open Thanksgiving Day, however.

Chains such as Home Depot IncCostco Wholesale Corp., Nordstrom Inc. and Marshalls are among those expected to stay closed Thanksgiving Day, according to BestBlackFriday.com, which tracks the industry.

Outdoor retailer REI Co-op also will close its 151 stores for the third consecutive year on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a span in which it urges its customers and 12,000 employees to “opt outside.” REI said its website also would not process any online orders those days.

That doesn’t surprise Pam Danziger, who runs the retail consulting firm Unity Marketing. “Many consumers want Thanksgiving to be a pure holiday,” she said.

But Danziger said many chains still opt to open Thanksgiving Day “because they’re desperate to squeeze every last dollar out of their customers,” she said. “They feel like they have to, because the pressure is so high right now to avoid letting their competitors get an inch on them.”

Barr said there’s another reason why retailers open Thanksgiving Day: It’s a way for them to persuade customers to return before Dec. 25.

“If you make that experience as enjoyable as possible in stores on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, they’ll be back later in the holiday season,” he said. “Shoppers never forget how you made them feel.”

L.A. Times

Retail jobs on decline after big weather events

The retail industry lost 18,000 jobs in October, according to the National Retail Federation, and while it’s hard to pinpoint specific reasons, extreme weather events may have played a part.

The figure does not include auto dealers, restaurants or gas stations, and the economy, overall, has added 261,000 jobs, according to the release which cited Labor Department figures.

“Retail jobs were down in October while overall employment was up, but it is difficult to draw conclusions because the jobs data is still distorted by the aftermath of the recent hurricanes,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in the release. “The storms have caused some consumers to defer discretionary spending, but at the same time retailers selling building materials saw a significant increase in sales as homeowners and businesses affected by the storms rebuild and make repairs. There continues to be a significant number of job openings in retail, so the drop could reflect a difficulty in hiring given the low unemployment rate. Also keep in mind that retailers are on the verge of adding half a million or more temporary workers for the holiday season.”

Employment at retailers selling building materials and supplies increased by 5,500 jobs in October, noted the release.

 

Retailer Customer Experience

November 7, 2017

Desperate employers search for holiday workers in tight job market

When UPS lured holiday job seekers recently to its Columbus, Ohio, package sorting center, it turned the dreary process of interviews and background checks into a full-blown party complete with candy and movie-ticket giveaways.

Faced with a shrinking labor pool and a need to fill 95,000 extra jobs this holiday season, the Louisville-based delivery giant has been left scrambling to find innovative ways to tempt potential employees— including turning recruiting sessions into celebrations.

It’s not just UPS. As the holidays draw closer and holiday hiring is in full swing, industries across the board are feeling the unintended side effects of a falling unemployment rate— now at a 17-year low of 4.1%. But retail, food services and delivery, industries that are an essential part of the holiday grind, are among the most vulnerable.

“It’s definitely a workers’ market,” says Peter Harrison, CEO of Snagajob, an online job search engine, who says companies on the platform are increasingly struggling to find workers. “No question about it. Right now, employers are having to do everything they can to lure people in.”

Starting with pay. Hooplas and giveaways aside, companies know nothing can help them sign up workers faster than the prospect of more cold hard cash and benefits:

• Target. The big-box retailer recently announced it’s increasing the hourly minimum wage to $11 an hour, with plans to go as high as $15 an hour by 2020.

• J.C. Penney. The department store chain will start offering paid time off, up to one week a year, to eligible part-time employees in early 2018.

• UPS. The deliverer known for its distinctive brown trucks offers weekly retention bonuses, up to $200 a week, as a reward to employees who work every day.

As for getting out the word, that’s where the parties come in.

“It’s just another way to reach people,” says Dan McMackin, a UPS spokesperson, who says recruiters also went to football games and Green Day concerts. “The competition for workers means we’ve got to be creative. We need to get out there and talk to everyone.”

Areas with unemployment levels below the national average have been hit the hardest.

In Columbus, for instance, where UPS held its recent holiday recruiting party, the unemployment rate was 3.8% in September, compared to the U.S. rate of 4.2% (the national rate dipped to 4.1% in October). The Columbus area was tied for 168th-lowest in unemployment among 388 metro areas.

Last summer, in Fort Collins, Colo., where the unemployment rate was 1.9% in September, second lowest in the nation, Abbie Lowe, was struggling to staff her store, Neighborhood Liquors. She had a sign on the door for more than a month in addition to the ads posted on Craigslist. Lowe got four resumes.

“Typically, we had a bigger pool to select potential employees from,” Lowe says. “But there are jobs everywhere here. Even day laborers are getting jobs all the time. We can’t keep anyone in here.”

As the holiday season looms, Target plans to hire more than 100,000 extra hourly workers to help out in stores. Josh King has the story (@abridgetoland). Buzz60

In Exeter, N.H., where the unemployment rate hovers around 2.3%, Ryan Abood, CEO of Gourmet Giftbags, an online retailer that makes upscale gift bags, says he focuses on offering “creature comforts” to lure in holiday-season employees.

“It’s all about creating a good vibe at work,” he says. That includes an office with a pool table, air hockey and ping-pong game.

The company, which sells about a million gift baskets a year, usually triples its full-time workforce during the holiday season from 55 people to around 150. Three years ago, Abood says, he received between 50 and 70 applications. This year he had fewer than 10.

 “It’s gone from bad to brutal for employers in terms of the talent pool,” Abood says. The company now has a bus service that picks workers up and brings them to the workplace.

“It’s bad when employers are busing workers to work to get enough people to execute the work we do,” he says. “We would never do that if the talent pool wasn’t so bad. Why would we go through all that extra hassle?”

Some companies are turning to social media or temporary staffing companies to fill the gap— but have had little luck.

“You ask for 10 temps and they send you eight,” says Butch Yamali, CEO of The Dover Group, which owns 12 companies, including restaurants, a catering hall and a construction company in the Nassau County, N.Y. area. Dover Group has more than 1,000 employees.

 About six months ago, Yamali began offering bonuses to current employees who recommend new people. In the past he never had to worry about finding workers.

“You’d just ask a staff member if they have a friend or relative to work,” says Yamali, who says the holidays are the busiest time of year. “There was always some way to find staff. Now it’s impossible. It hurts. People are out spending money but we don’t have enough staff to catch them properly.”

Other companies are leveraging new technology to compete for workers. More than 50 franchisees and corporate partners across the U.S., such as various McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, began using Instant Financial earlier this year. The service allows employees to be paid by the day instead of waiting until the end of the week or month.

This summer’s string of hurricanes in the South left an even bigger dent in the labor pool, especially among construction workers.

“This is not necessarily a bad thing for the people looking for jobs,” says Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation. “They’re going to find them.”

But for employers, many have been forced to lower their hiring standards.

“A growing number of employers used to have elaborate assessments to get hired,” Harrison says. “They’ve had to dramatically shorten them—or eliminate them all together in some cases. If they make it too hard to apply, then people will just not apply.”

, USA TODAY

Retail Sales See Solid Gains in First Half of Holiday Season

November retail sales grew a solid 5 percent year over year and 0.1 percent from an already-strong October as consumers found the deals they were hoping for both online and in stores and showed their purchasing power during the first half of the holiday season, according to calculations released today by the National Retail Federation. Online and other non-store sales grew 15.3 percent year over year, reflecting the growth of online shopping. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“Consumers were able to take advantage of low prices throughout the first half of the holiday season, checking out with full baskets but paying less even though purchasing was up,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “The combination of job and wage gains led to solid holiday spending by American households.”

“Consumers have the wherewithal to spend but households remain measured and rational, which is no surprise given their history since the recovery began in 2009,” Kleinhenz said.

There were broad-based monthly increases across the majority of sectors with the exception of sporting goods.

November’s results indicate that retail sales for the holiday season will meet or exceed NRF’s holiday sales forecast, which anticipates an increase of 3.6 percent over last year’s level for November and December. For a look into the art of forecasting, read Kleinhenz’s article: The Art and Science of Economic Forecasting.

A few specifics from the report include:

  • Online and other non-store sales increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 15.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at clothing and accessories stores were flat from the previous month and increased 1.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at general merchandise stores increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 1.4 percent year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliances stores’ sales increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 2.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales decreased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 7.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at building materials and supplies stores increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 7.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores’ sales decreased 1 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 1.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 7.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

More people shopped over Thanksgiving weekend than last year — but they spent less

About 154 million shoppers made purchases at stores or on e-commerce sites this holiday weekend, the National Retail Federation reported Sunday, a bump up from the 151 million people who last year participated in the annual barrage of Black Friday deals.

And though it is encouraging for the retail industry that more consumers opened their wallets this time around, it wasn’t all good news: Average spending per person was down to $289.19 from $299.60 in 2015.

Matt Shay, the chief executive of the National Retail Federation (NRF), attributed the decline in spending to just how deep and broad the discounts were over the four-day weekend. While the promotions offered during this period were probably preplanned and thus baked into the retailers’ sales plans, it could prove a troublesome dynamic for them if ultra-deep discounts end up being needed all season long to get people shopping.

But other factors could have contributed to the decline in per-person spending: Retailers have been spreading their Black Friday deals out over a longer stretch, so it’s possible that many people pounced on offers several days before Thanksgiving even arrived. And NRF’s survey found that about 122 million people plan to shop on Cyber Monday, up from 121 million last year. So perhaps some consumers are holding out for the fresh batch of deals that will arrive after the weekend comes to an end.

The survey results reflect the increasing importance of e-commerce in the retail landscape. This year, about 108.5 million people shopped online over the holiday season, compared with 103 million last year. Meanwhile, the number of people who shopped in stores fell to 99.1 million from 101 million last year.

Indeed, other data released this weekend offers evidence that online spending was strong on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Adobe, which analyzed 22.6 billion visits to retail websites, reports that a record $3.34 billion was spent online on Black Friday, up 21.6 percent from the previous year. Sales on Thanksgiving Day were up 11.5 percent to $1.93 billion.

Adobe’s research found that top-selling items included iPads, Samsung 4K televisions and toys such as Lego Creator sets and the Barbie Dreamhouse.

The NRF had earlier projected that the retail industry would see a 3.6 percent increase in sales this holiday season over last year. That would be significantly better than the 3 percent growth registered in 2015. The trade group’s chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, said Sunday that he believes that prediction “holds up pretty well” right now, even as some have asked whether the surprising election results might have altered consumers’ mind-set.

Experts say that in a presidential campaign year, we typically see that the election serves as a temporary distraction, with shoppers getting their gift-buying started a little later than they might otherwise. NRF’s survey seems to reflect that dynamic: About 23 percent of respondents said they hadn’t started their holiday shopping yet, compared with 19 percent last year. And a smaller share of people have finished their holiday shopping. This year, just 9 percent of shoppers have done so, compared with 11 percent last year.

 

November 27 at 3:53 PM

The Washington Post

Photo:Byron Siekavizza wheels his television to his car as he gets a jump-start on shopping for deals at Best Buy on Thanksgiving in Alexandria. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

Higher Wages And Easy Credit Likely To Spur Holiday Sales, Retailers Say

Rising wages and cheap loans are setting the stage for a strong holiday season, according to retailers, consultants and pollsters.

On Tuesday, the National Retail Federation predicted a 3.6-percent increase in holiday sales, compared with 2015. That’s considerably better than the 10-year average gain of 2.5 percent for the holiday period.

Why the optimism? “People have more money in their pocket and an expanded use of credit,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said on a conference call with reporters.

The industry trade group expects sales to hit $655.8 billion, up from $626.1 billion last year. Kleinhenz says consumers are being buoyed by low unemployment, rising income and low interest rates.

Other studies, done by consulting firms such as Kantar Retail, Deloitte and theInternational Council of Shopping Centers, all forecast holiday spending growth of 3.2 percent to 4 percent.

The projections reflect not only easy credit and improving incomes, but also rising confidence. Last week, the University of Michigan raised its September Index of Consumer Sentiment to 91.8, a 4.6 percent increase over last year. In its latest report, the Conference Board said consumer confidence has reached its highest levels since August 2007.

Still, things can go wrong, as they did last year. NRF says unusually warm weather in much of the country in December 2015 caused seasonal sales to come in $4.4 billion below expectations.

And this year, there could be another big “unknown” that disturbs consumer confidence. When asked if surprising election results might shake holiday spending, Kleinhenz downplayed the threat, saying the economy “is a big aircraft carrier, it’s not going to turn on a dime.”

But retail analysts say one thing is certain: more shopping will be done online. The NRF forecasts a 7 percent to 10 percent increase in sales occurring outside of stores, such as online purchases. Other consultants predict even higher upticks in online sales, some as high as 17 to 19 percent.

College student Tony Fitzgerald, who was shopping for clothes in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, says he shares the sense of rising optimism as the economy improves. “I definitely plan on spending more this year than last year,” he said. “It just feels right.”

Christmas Sales Are Expected to Be Strong This Year

Retail sales should jump a solid 3.6% this year

Finally.

U.S. retailers can expect a strong holiday season this year, buoyed by income gains and rising consumer confidence according to the National Retail Federation.

The industry group forecast holiday season sales—excluding car sales, gas and restaurants—would rise 3.6% to $655.8 billion, well above the 10-year clip of 2.5% growth and better than the 3% rise for the 2015 Christmas period. And online business should be a big help, rising as much as 10% during the period.

The holiday season is crucial for many retailers, making or breaking the year for some chains and generating as much as 30% of sales.

2016 has proven to be a challenging year so far,particularly for stores like Macy’s, M 0.77% Kohl’s KSS 0.91% and Target TGT -0.04% , which had to deal with sales declines last quarter. Shoppers are moving online and also away from apparel, making it tough going for many such chains. A notable exception has been Walmart WMT -0.36% , which has fared well thanks to improved customer service, fewer out-of-stock items, and an improved e-commerce site.

And as Walmart and Amazon.com AMZN -0.32% have shown so far this year, retailers will engage in pricing warfare to outdo one another: Target for one has said it needs to re-emphasize its low prices in its marketing given the competitive environment. And weak traffic at hundreds of malls is hurting the like of Macy’s and Gap Inc GPS -0.18% .

But at least shoppers are in a better mood heading into the holiday season. “Consumers have seen steady job and income gains throughout the year, resulting in continued confidence and the greater use of credit, which bodes well for more spending throughout the holiday season,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement, adding that anxiety about the outcome of the election could weigh on shoppers’ mood.

And once again, retailers will have to fight extra hard with Amazon to give shoppers a reason to come to stores, or at least to their websites. Last year was the first year more shoppers went online on Black Friday than to stores. This year eMarketer expects digital sales to surpass 10% of total holiday season revenue for the first time, while a recent study found that nearly half of all online shopping searches begin on Amazon.

In a separate forecast, PwC estimated holiday spending would increase 10% during the 2016 season, though stores would struggle to get their share since shoppers will be spending proportionately more on experiences and travel.

a OCTOBER 4, 2016,

Holiday sales to rise 3.6 percent this winter: NRF

A more confident group of consumers are expected to loosen their purse strings this holiday, and are seen sparking an acceleration in retail sales growth over last year.

The National Retail Federation on Tuesday said it expects retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants to rise 3.6 percent in November and December, to $655.8 billion. That would mark an acceleration over last year’s 3 percent increase, and would easily top the 10-year average of 2.5 percent growth.

The trade organization’s forecast, considered the industry benchmark, is based on an economic model that factors in consumer credit, monthly retail sales and personal income.

NRF anticipates non-store sales, which skew toward digital, will increase between 7 percent and 10 percent, to as much as $117 billion.

“We have a lot more people working this year,” Jack Kleinhenz, NRF’s chief economist, told reporters.

When factoring in other indicators like wage growth and higher home prices, “our general sense of the economy is that we’re in better shape than we were last year,” Kleinhenz said.

Source: NRF

Retailers got off to a rocky start in 2016, as last winter’s unseasonably warm temperatures left their shelves stocked with coats and scarves. Stores were forced to aggressively discount these items to make way for spring goods, cutting into their margins. Retailers have finally gotten their inventory levels in check, boding well for their profitability this season.

Yet even as more Americans are working and receiving slightly higher paychecks, they’ve been reluctant to spend on traditional retail goods — namely apparel. Broad-based discounting has also cut into retailers’ top lines, requiring them to sell more items to record a gain.

And weather once again took a toll on sales in August and September, thanks to a warm back-to-school and early fall selling season. High temperatures dented apparel specialty stores’ revenue by $393 million during those two months as compared with the prior year, according to new research by Planalytics.

More broadly speaking, data from the Commerce Department shows that retail sales in August slipped on a monthly basis for the first time since March.

Despite the slowdown, Planalytics predicts temperatures on the densely populated East Coast will be more in line with typical years this holiday, which should help spur demand for cold-weather categories. And while some holiday purchases may be pushed back because of the election, the trade organization said it does not anticipate political uncertainty to dent sales.

“This year has not been perfect,” NRF President Matthew Shay conceded. “Overall we think this is a realistic number and very reflective of the current environment.”

Like NRF, separate forecasts from Deloitte, AlixPartners, the International Council of Shopping Centers and RetailNext are all calling for growth between 3.2 percent and 4 percent. PwC expects a more robust 10 percent lift in spending; unlike the other predictions, its forecast includes spending on restaurants and travel.

Retail sales excluding automobiles and parts rose 2.8 percent through August, according to the Commerce Department.

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CNBC