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Low gas prices expected to fuel jump in holiday sales


It’s almost September, which can only mean one thing: The annual blizzard of holiday sales forecasts is about to begin, and this year eMarketer is one of the first out of the gate.

The firm predicts a shiny and bright holiday season for U.S. retailers, with an assist from falling gas prices and online growth. eMarketer forecasts that U.S. retail sales in the months of November and December 2015 will increase 5.7% year-over-year, reaching $885.7 billion (includes online and physical store sales).

That's an upward adjustment from the 3.2% growth rate predicted earlier this year and would be the highest since the 6.3% year-over-year rise in holiday sales reported in 2011. According to eMarketer, a lot of the growth in this year’s holiday sales will be as a result of fluctuations in gas prices.

Gas station sales, which make up roughly 12% of overall retail sales, dropped dramatically in late 2014. Increases in real income from wages, further decreases in unemployment and an increased willingness to spend in traditional retail categories that missed out on the windfall in gas prices earlier in the year should also drive growth.

While U.S. retail e-commerce holiday season sales growth will dip slightly this year to 13.9%, compared to 14.4% in 2014, the segment will play an increasingly important role in the upcoming holiday season. eMarketer estimates that e-commerce will hit 9% of total retail sales this season, or $79.4 billion, up from 8.3% share last year.

Mobile will also play a part in e-commerce growth this holiday season. eMarketer expects US retail m-commerce sales to rise 32.2% in full-year 2015, more than double the 14.2% increase forecast for retail e-commerce sales as a whole. The biggest growth will come in smartphone retail m-commerce sales, as consumers become more comfortable buying on their phones, which, on average, have larger screens than those released just a few years ago. eMarketer estimates that by the end of 2016, 25% of all retail e-commerce sales in the U.S. will take place via mobile devices.

In addition, eMarketer says the 2015 holiday season will present the first real test of “buy” buttons that have been released by leading social networks such as Facebook and Instagram.

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