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More good holiday news for retailers — with a caveat

Another forecast bodes well for retailers’ holiday sales but warns of “unprecedented uncertainty.”

Retail sales in the U.S. are expected to rise 4.4% to 5.3% this holiday season, according to global consulting firm AlixPartners. The forecast is in line with Deloitte’s annual outlook, which was released on Tuesday.

However, AlixPartners is taking a more cautious stance with regards to the critical November-through-January shopping period.

"'Unprecedented uncertainty' might be the best term to use to characterize this upcoming holiday season," said Joel Bines, global co-leader of the retail practice at AlixPartners. "From on-again, off-again tariffs, to a growing chorus concerned about a recession, a looming election and geopolitical uncertainty, this season is unlike any in recent memory.”

Bines noted that while AlexPartners’ forecast is bullish, the firm is nevertheless advising clients to be nimble.

“These are uncharted waters, and the best course to set is one that includes a strong cost control and flawless execution,” he said.

Roshan Varma, a director in the retail practice at AlixPartners and one of the contributors to this year’s forecast, added that holiday sales the past five years have been like a bouncing ball: up one year and down the next.

“However, just like a bouncing ball, each rise has been lower and lower,” Varma said. Therefore, the question for retailers this holiday season is whether they can crowd out all the uncertainty, connect with their customers in an engaging manner and deliver on ROI targets.”
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