The Halloween decorations still flapping in the breeze on your front lawn be damned: it’s time to start thinking of Christmas. (Or at least to the heady stretch of shopping days that span between October 31 and December 25.)
To launch this buzzing shopping season, the National Retail Federation has released its predictions for this year’s retail trends. While essentially reflective of the economy’s delicate crawl toward recovery, they amount to the most hopeful forecast the NRF has put out since the recession first cast its shadows across the continent. Conservative optimism prevails.
Some highlights of the report include:
• Holiday shopping is starting earlier than ever, both online and at brick-and-mortar shops. Some 22 percent of consumers declared an intent to start spending in October this year (versus 20 percent last year). And retailers are getting into the spirit just as early; almost 62 percent posted online Halloween specials, up from 53 percent in 2011.
• Americans are expected to spend more on gifts this year than last. The NRF predicts consumers will boost their holiday-season spending by some 4.1 percent. Still, that’s less than the amount by which sales increased in the previous year-over-year calculation.
• The NRF singles out mixed economic indicators and uncertainty about the election as the prime influencers on holiday shopping numbers.
• Consumers will spend US$586 billion — or an average of $750 per holiday shopper — during this enchanted 55-day interval.
• Gift cards top the 2012 preferred present list. According to an NRF survey, 60 percent of us covet gift cards (followed by 49 percent wanting books and 46 percent wanting CDs, DVDs or video games).
• Layaway will make a furious comeback this holiday shopping season, says the NRF — a development for which we have the recession to thank.
• Online and mobile shopping are still on the ascent, with Internet and mobile-device sales representing the fastest-growing segment of holiday purchases. The NRF estimates that online sales will grow 12 percent over the holidays, to US$96 billion. All told, some 52 percent of respondents said they’d shop on the Web this year — up from 47 percent last year, and higher than any NRF survey has ever recorded.