U.S. Retailers’ Holiday Sales May Increase 3.4%, ICSC Estimates

U.S. retailers’ sales will climb 3.4 percent this holiday season, slightly more than last year, even as companies expect more modest spending from consumers facing higher payroll taxes and economic uncertainty.

Last year, sales in November and December climbed 3 percent excluding automobile, food and beverage-related sales, Jesse Tron, a spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, a New York-based trade group, said in a phone interview today. Chain-store sales may increase 2 percent.

“We’re going to see a more subdued spending mood from consumers, but what counts is that we’re on track to have a better holiday sales season that last year,” Michael Niemira, chief economist for ICSC, said in a statement today.

While a 2 percentage-point increase in the payroll tax and uncertainty about a government shutdown has prompted concern about consumer spending this holiday season, the economy has shown positive signs. Unemployment last month dropped to its lowest level since December 2008, while sales of homes rose in August and housing prices have gained 15 percent since last year.

ICSC also forecast holiday hiring would increase 0.5 percent from the previous year. That compares to a Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. estimate for a 6.9 percent drop in seasonal hiring, amid shaky consumer confidence and greater efficiency at stores.

Seasonal Hiring

Retailers will hire about 700,000 temporary staff this year, down from 751,800 last year, Challenger, a Chicago-based consulting firm, said in a Sept. 23 statement. Last year’s hiring reached a 12-year high and was up 14 percent from 2011, the firm said.

Last week, Deloitte LLP, a New York-based consulting firm, forecast retail sales may increase as much as 4.5 percent this holiday season, in line with last year’s gain, led by non-store sales from online and catalog retailers.

Earlier this month, Chicago-based researcher ShopperTrak said sales in stores may advance 2.4 percent in November and December, the smallest increase since 2009 as customers visit fewer stores. Retailers may offer holiday-based promotions as early as Nov. 1 to take advantage of the shorter shopping season, ShopperTrak estimated.

This year, there are 25 days between the day after Thanksgiving -- known as Black Friday -- and Christmas, compared with 31 days in 2012, and four instead of five weekends.

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