The NRF Forecasts a 4% Boost in Holiday Spending This Year

What economic uncertainty?

A person in a Santa suit shops.
The NRF says job growth and higher wages mean consumers have money to spend this holiday season.
Getty Images

You may not know what you’re going to be for Halloween yet, but the National Retail Federation (NRF) knows roughly how much you’re going to spend during the upcoming holiday season.

The retail trade association released its holiday sales forecast for 2019, which predicts an increase of 3.8%-4.2% over 2018, for a total of $727.9 billion to $730.7 billion in spend from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019.

The NRF expects online and other nonstore sales in particular to increase 11%-14%, to between $162.6 billion and $166.9 billion.

In addition, the NRF predicts retailers will hire 530,000-590,000 temporary workers, which is on par with the 554,000 hired in 2018.

This is despite new tariffs on merchandise like apparel, footwear and televisions—and more tariffs to come on Dec. 15. Per the NRF, it’s too early to tell how tariffs will change holiday spending, but retailers are trying hard to limit the effect on consumers. Small businesses, however, have already had to raise prices, the NRF said.

Holiday sales for 2018 totaled $701.2 billion, which marked what the NRF called “an unusually small increase” of 2.1% over 2017 as a result of a government shutdown, stock market volatility, tariffs and other issues.

“The U.S. economy is continuing to grow, and consumer spending is still the primary engine behind that growth,” wrote NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay in a statement. “Nonetheless, there has clearly been a slowdown brought on by considerable uncertainty around issues including trade, interest rates, global risk factors and political rhetoric. Consumers are in good financial shape, and retailers expect a strong holiday season. However, confidence could be eroded by continued deterioration of these and other variables.”

The NRF said its holiday forecast takes a variety of indicators into account, including employment, wages, consumer confidence, disposable income, consumer credit and previous retail sales.

“There are probably very few precedents for this uncertain macroeconomic environment,” wrote NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz in a statement. “There is significant economic unease, but current economic data and the recent momentum of the economy show that we can expect a much stronger holiday season than last year. Job growth and higher wages mean there’s more money in families’ pockets, so we see both the willingness and ability to spend this holiday season.”

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