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ICSC predicts a long and strong holiday shopping season


More Americans are planning holiday-related purchases this year than in 2014, and those who plan to shop will spend more over a longer period of time.

That’s according to the International Council of Shopping Centers 2015 Consumer Forecast, which shows that 90% of Americans are planning holiday purchases this season, up from 82% last year. And overall, 80% of shoppers plan to spend the same or more this holiday season than they did in 2014.

The ICSC outlook is based on consumer intentions, in contrast to NRF’s forecast and Deloitte’s projection, both of which called for lower holiday sales than last year.

ICSC is forecasting overall year-over-year growth of 3.3% in retail sales this holiday season (Nov.-Dec.). That pace would be significantly ahead of the average 10-year holiday sales growth of 1.8% and slightly ahead of the current yearly pace of 2.8%.

Notable growth categories include:

• Furniture and home furnishing stores (4.9%)

• Clothing and clothing access stores (3.3%)

• Health and personal care stores (3.3%)

• Electronics and appliance stores (1.1%)

The ICSC survey shows that holiday shoppers will spend an average of $702 this season – up from $677 in 2014 – allocated as follows:

• $575 on holiday gifts

• $127 on all other holiday-related items, such as decorations, greeting cards, etc.

On average, the highest income group polled ($100k+) will spend $1,062, and those with incomes less than $35k will spend an average of $500.

The top five categories in which Americans are planning to spend this holiday season are:

• Traditional gift cards (54%)

• Electronics/devices (51%)

• Apparel and footwear (49%)

• Toys and games, not including apps or video games (42%)

• Food such as chocolates, popcorn and food baskets and beverages/alcohol (34%)

According to ICSC, Americans are starting their holiday shopping earlier and the stragglers are pushing later. This year, two thirds (66%) of Americans will start shopping before Thanksgiving Day. Only 7% expect to be done by Thanksgiving, however; 65 % are planning to have their holiday shopping complete by Dec. 15.

Many Americans are looking to do their holiday shopping on actual holidays: 12% plan to make purchases on Thanksgiving Day, and 8% plan to shop on Christmas Eve. And the year’s biggest retail holiday – Black Friday – will continue to be a big draw: 41% of holiday shoppers plan to take advantage of sales on that day.

The survey showed that about 95% of holiday shoppers intend to make a purchase in a physical store this year. Their top reasons for doing so include:

• They like the ability to physically see, touch or try on the merchandise (46%)

• They don’t want to pay for shipping (36%)

• The sales they want are only offered in store (30%)

• They find it easier to return or exchange items at a store (28%)

• They enjoy the convenience of one-stop shopping (27%)

“With gas prices and unemployment down, and housing prices up, holiday shoppers are heading into the season with increased confidence in their spending power,” said Jesse Tron, ICSC spokesman. “While certain headwinds exist, such as uncertainty in global financial markets and minimal wage growth in the U.S., the positive macroeconomic trends are likely to win out and propel retail sales throughout the holiday season. As a result, it appears to be shaping up as a solid season for retailers, and if ICSC’s forecast holds, one that would better the average of the previous 10 seasons by 1.5 percentage points.”

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