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NRF: Holiday sales to rise between 4.3% and 4.8%

Retailers can expect a healthy rise in holiday sales — just not as big a one as last year.

The National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales in November and December — excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants — to increase between 4.3% and 4.8% over 2017 for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. (The NRF numbers include online and other non-store sales.)

The forecast compares with an average annual increase of 3.9% over the past five year, but it is down from last year. In 2017, holiday sales rose 5.3% to $687.87 billion, the largest increase since the 5.2% year-over-year gain seen in 2010 after the end of the recession.

In addition, NRF forecasts that retailers will hire between 585,000 and 650,000 temporary workers this holiday season. The total is up from last year’s 582,500.

“Last year’s strong results were thanks to growing wages, stronger employment and higher confidence, complemented by anticipation of tax cuts that led consumers to spend more than expected,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “With this year’s forecast, we continue to see strong momentum from consumers as they do the heavy lifting in supporting our economy. The combination of increased job creation, improved wages, tamed inflation and an increase in net worth all provide the capacity and the confidence to spend.”

The holiday forecast is consistent with NRF’s forecast that annual retail sales for 2018 will increase at least 4.5% over 2017.

A closely-watched holiday forecast from Deloitte came in higher — at 5% to 5.6% — than the NRF, while AlixPartners' holiday forecast was on the low side, calling for a 3.1% to 4.1% increase.
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