Arkansas Retailers Hope Holiday Season Is Happy

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 12:00 am  

Barbara Graves plans to launch an advertising campaign to lure customers to her store for the holidays. (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

“When I weigh the positive and the negative factors, it really points to a slight improvement in retail sales at Christmastime, but mostly more of the same,” said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas’ Walton Business College.

Others said that the uncertainty was too great to make an accurate projection.

“Variables including an upcoming presidential election, confusion surrounding the ‘fiscal cliff’ and concern relating to future economic growth could all combine to affect consumers’ spending plans,” Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, said in a news release last week. “But overall we are optimistic that retailers’ promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers.”

Anthony Liuzzo, a business and economics professor at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., told Arkansas Business that holiday sales would be up about 3 percent this season.

He said consumers still were nervous about the unemployment rate, which stands above 8 percent nationally.

“When people see unemployment rates that high, they get a little nervous, and … more hesitant about spending dollars for holiday shopping,” he said.

In its annual holiday hiring forecast, Challenger Gray & Christmas Inc. of Chicago predicted that seasonal job gains nationwide were likely to be higher than a year ago but still below pre-recession levels.

During 2011, retailers added 660,000 workers; this year, seasonal hires could approach 700,000.

Greater Foot Traffic

More people are expected to be out shopping this holiday season, according to ShopperTrak of Chicago, which counts and analyzes retail foot traffic.

“It’s a reversal of a trend we’ve seen over the past four or five years of declining physical foot traffic,” Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, said in an interview with Arkansas Business last week.

ShopperTrak predicts a 2.8 percent increase in foot traffic over the 2011 holiday season.



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