Early Holiday Forecasts Predict Pared-Back Celebrations

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Economic experts may not be particularly worried about consumer spending for the coming holiday season, thanks to healthy employment levels and growing paychecks. But for retailers, lower inflation rates and depleted savings accounts mean it’s likely to be a ho-hum kind of holiday.

Deloitte expects holiday retail sales to rise between 3.5% and 4.6%, projecting a November-through-January sales total in the $1.54 to $1.56 trillion range. That’s considerably lower than last year, when the U.S. Census Bureau says retail sales (excluding gasoline and automotive) notched a 7.6% hike to $1.49 trillion.

Deloitte anticipates a more significant climb in ecommerce, with those sales expected to grow 10.3% to 12.8%, amounting to between $278 billion and $284 billion. Last year, online spending advanced 7.9%. “This season, ecommerce sales should continue to be strong as consumers search for the best deals online to maximize their wallets,” says Nick Handrinos, vice chair and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution and consumer products leader, in the company's announcement.



Bain & Company’s forecast is a bit grimmer, looking at gains of just 3% in the U.S., which would be the lowest increase since 2018. That increase is also significantly lower than the 10-year-average increase of 5.1%.

Gartner also forecasts less spending, noting that just 9% of consumers plan to boost their budgets this holiday season, while 28% plan to cut back from last year. It also reports that a small but growing number of consumers are turning to year-round shopping as a cost-savings strategy -- used by 19% of respondents this year, compared to 16% in 2022. The consulting company predicts that 30% will do so by 2026.

About 19% say they plan to start shopping in October, and 29% will begin in November. Just 10% intend to wait until December.

Bankrate’s research finds that 50% of shoppers have either already started shopping or plan to do so before Halloween. It also detects significant shopping stress, with 40% of consumers feeling financially burdened this year. And 53% say they’ll use credit cards to pay for at least some holiday purchases.

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