WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation released its 2012 holiday forecast on Tuesday, which shows sales increasing 4.1% to $586.1 billion, down from last year's 5.6% growth.
However, the NRF's 2012 estimate tops the 10-year holiday sales growth average of 3.5%.
"This is the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession. In spite of the uncertainties that exist in our economy and among consumers, we believe we'll see solid holiday sales growth this year," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. "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, but overall we are optimistic that retailers promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers."
Recent government data released show a crosscurrent of indicators that could impact holiday sales, including unimpressive job and income growth and an unemployment rate stuck at 8%. However, positive indicators are emerging that show a cautious but capable consumer, such as increases in confidence and home prices.
"While moderate compared to what we experienced the last two holiday seasons, the forecast is a very pragmatic look at what to expect this year given the current rate of economic growth," NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said.
In preparation for the holiday selling season, NRF has forecasted that retailers will hire between 585,000 and 625,000 seasonal workers, compared with the 607,500 seasonal employees hired last year.