NEW YORK Retailers should expect a modest gain in holiday sales this year, according to a Deloitte forecast released Monday.
Deloitte's retail group expects total holiday sales to reach $852 billion, representing a 2% increase in November through January holiday sale — excluding motor vehicles and gasoline — over last season. This growth rate represents a slight improvement over last year's 1% gain.
"Sustained weakness in the housing and employment markets continue to restrict consumer cash flow," said Carl Steidtmann, Deloitte's chief economist. "Consumers' discretionary funds have dwindled as households remain focused on reducing debt and increasing their savings, while banks continue to limit access to credit and stimulus checks have run out. Should consumers receive good tidings later this season in the way of falling energy prices or additional stock market gains, they may be able to lend retailers a bit more holiday cheer. However, given the unsteady pace of economic recovery, retailers should expect only a small uptick in holiday sales this year."
Alison Paul, vice chairman and Deloitte's retail sector leader in the United States, added that e-commerce's "convenience and functionality" will aid holiday sales this year as well, as "social networks and mobile applications are playing a more prominent role in the shopping process."