The state of the economy heading into the holidays

NRF forecasts that 2019 holiday sales will grow between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent over 2018, to between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz joined the Retail Gets Real podcast team shortly after the forecast announcement to discuss what’s behind those numbers and the state of the economy heading into the holidays.

Kleinhenz describes today’s environment as uncharted territory for which there are few precedents. Though uncertainties and distractions ranging from trade negotiations to political rhetoric make predictions difficult, Kleinhenz says the consumer is in a good place, citing job and wage growth among many other factors.

NRF holiday forecast

NRF expects holiday retail sales to increase between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent over 2018 to a total of between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. See the holiday forecast.

November and December sales account for about 20 percent of a retailer’s annual sales, making the holiday season a critical time. During the holidays, Kleinhenz says around 20 percent of sales occur online.

NRF expects retailers to hire between 530,000 and 590,000 temporary workers during the holiday season. As retail business models evolve, tracking seasonal job growth becomes more complicated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not count employees who work outside of a store as “retail” employees. “Unfortunately, we’re not able to capture the jobs that are actually being offered by retailers who are running warehouses, distributions and transportation capabilities,” Kleinhenz said.

Listen to the episode to learn more about what goes into the economic model, what happened last holiday season, and why Kleinhenz thinks economic momentum will continue and why consumers will be willing to spend this holiday season.

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