Holiday retail sales are expected to increase by 6% to 8%, according to the NRF

The National Retail Federation (NRF) on Thursday forecast non-inflation-adjusted holiday retail sales to rise 6% to 8% to as much as $960.4 billion. That’s down 40% to 50% from record 2021 levels, but still what the trade group called a healthy rise amid high inflation and worries about the economic slowdown.

Online and other non-business sales will range from $262.8 billion to $267.6 billion, up 10% to 12% from this past holiday season, when more people shopped online due to the COVID-19 pandemic , NRF. The US retail industry’s leading trade group said it expects consumers to do more Christmas shopping in stores than they did last year.

NRF, which defines the holiday season as November 1 through December 31, said 46% of consumers planned to browse or shop before November 1 to avoid the stress of Christmas shopping and spread their budget over a longer period of time .

“Consumers are out sooner than ever,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay told reporters after the forecast was released.

Shay added that consumers are “more considered and cautious” in response to the macroeconomic headwinds.

Shay’s comments are at odds with those of UPS Inc. (NYSE: UPS) CEO Carol Tomè, who said at the company’s quarterly analyst conference last week that it expects a later peak supply cycle as consumers advance their behavior and supplies of the pandemic return chain breaks fade.

In the last year in particular, many consumers have been shopping early, worried that supply chain bottlenecks could delay Christmas deliveries.

NRF members have not raised any concerns about delivery availability issues this holiday, a spokesman said. The past two years have been challenging for large retailers as consumers splurged and online ordering has skyrocketed, leading delivery services to limit volume during peak periods. With online ordering expected to be relatively subdued this holiday due to more in-store shopping and economic concerns, delivery capacity is expected to be much lower.

NRF data excludes auto, gasoline and restaurant sales. It’s also not adjusted for inflation, which is likely to push up acquisition costs during the 2022 holiday season. The retail group continues to expect inflation-adjusted sales growth this holiday season.

According to NRF, retailers expect to hire between 450,000 and 600,000 seasonal workers, up from 669,800 in 2021. There are approximately 800,000 unfilled retail jobs in the US.

For 2023, NRF expects total retail sales to grow 6% to 8% to more than $4.86 trillion. Officials also expect the economy to slow in 2023 but believe it is premature to predict a sharp contraction given job and wage growth remain strong and consumers are not overly leveraged.

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