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)

This holiday season will be a mixed bag for Arkansas retailers, though. While some are projecting about the same sales as last year, others forecast higher sales during the holiday shopping season, which begins the day after Thanksgiving and gives retailers 32 shopping days and five full weekends of crowded malls.

Across the country, retailers are expected to see an increase over last year’s holiday sales. The National Retail Federation of Washington, D.C., predicted holiday sales this year would increase 4.1 percent from 2011 to $586.1 billion.

For the 2011 holiday season, retail sales were projected to be up about 3 percent, but finished with a 5.6 percent increase, the highest growth since 2005, when it rose 6.2 percent compared over the previous year.

“I think we’re going to see a fairly modest increase,” said Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He projects retail sales in Arkansas will be up 4 or 4.5 percent from last year.

Others experts foresee a modest gain for Arkansas.

“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.



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