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Holiday 2016: NRF Foresees A Holly, Jolly Christmas For Retailers

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is anticipating one of the best holiday selling seasons in a decade.

The trade association is projecting retail sales in November and December to grow 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion — significantly higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent, and above the seven-year average of 3.4 percent since economic recovery began in 2009.

By comparison, holiday sales increased 3.2 percent last year.

E-tailers and other direct sellers have further cause to celebrate, as the NRF is forecasting that channel’s sales to grow 7-10 percent for the period, to as much as $117 billion.

“All of the fundamentals are in a good place, giving strength to consumers and leading us to believe that this will be a very positive holiday season,” said NRF president/CEO Matthew Shay.

Possible roadblocks include the presidential election and geopolitical uncertainty, noted NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. Nevertheless, “Consumers have seen steady job and income gains throughout the year, resulting in continued confidence and the greater use of credit, which bodes well for more spending throughout the holiday season,” he said.

The NRF outlook jibes with a recent report from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which is projecting holiday sales of CE at $36 billion, up 3.1 percent from last year, in what could be “the biggest [holiday season] on record for the tech sector,” CTA chief economist Shawn DuBravac said.

The holiday selling season is especially critical for CE and appliance retailers, who last year reaped 22.3 percent of their total annual sales volume in November and December, the NRF said.

To help sell all those holiday goodies, the NRF expects retailers to hire upwards of 690,000 seasonal workers between now and year’s end, compared to 675,300 last year.

The NRF forecast excludes auto, gas and restaurant sales, and is based on several indicators including consumer credit, disposable personal income, and prior months’ retail sales.