Florida’s holiday shopping projected to rise 4.5 percent, lifted by tourists’ spending

11/15/2013 5:48 PM

11/18/2013 10:55 AM

Buoyed by a boom in visitors, the uptick in holiday shopping in the Sunshine State is predicted to outpace that of the nation this year, the Florida Retail Federation said Friday.

Retailers in Florida are expected to reap a 4.5 percent jump statewide during the November-December season, compared to national forecasts that point to a 3 percent to 4 percent increase, said Florida Retail Federation President and Chief Executive Rick McAllister.

“We are having a great resurgence in tourism in the state of Florida, which is what separates us from the rest of the nation,” said McAllister, who revised his prediction upward Friday morning after Visit Florida reported 2.5 million more visitors through the third quarter, as compared to the same period last year, with a total of 72.6 million visitors year-to-date.

“Clearly Florida has a tremendous advantage this time of year, particularly over other states,” due to tourists’ heavy spending, McAllister said.

The holiday season, which can account for up to 40 percent of annual revenue, is a critical time for retailers. The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, expects an increase of 3.9 percent over last year, for a total of $602.1 billion in holiday sales, compared to $579.5 billion in sales for 2012’s holiday season.

An improved economy with lower unemployment, a rebounding housing market and greater consumer confidence also point to a better year for Florida’s retailers, McAllister said. It also translates into 55,000 new seasonal jobs in the state.

Still, Florida’s growth predictions fall short of pre-recession increases, when projected year-over-year gains reached as high as 8 percent. McAllister said he did not have actual dollar figures for how shopping seasons compare.

Overall, shoppers will have six fewer days for gift buying between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year than last year. And with Hanukkah falling startlingly early — with the first full day coinciding with Thanksgiving — many shoppers may find themselves with precious little time.

Because of the shortened season, retailers like Sears, Kmart and the Disney Store have announced Black Friday “doorbusters” or “Magical Week” deals that will be available days before Black Friday — the traditionally huge shopping day that falls right after Thanksgiving. Online retailers have also begun offering early deals to lure in buyers.

Nationwide, according to data from the Visa Spending Intentions survey, 87 percent of consumers plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping online, with 40 percent saying they will do half or more gift-buying online.

In fact, McAllister predicts that online shopping in Florida will rise 15 percent over last year.

Turning to the Internet was Valory Greenfield’s choice for Hanukah gifts for her 33-year-old son, after she realized time was already running out.

“The holiday, Hanukkah, just crept up on me and I realized it’s going to be starting the same day as Thanksgiving, and I have to get my act together,” said Greenfield, 63, a public interest attorney who lives in West Kendall. “So I said, ‘You’d better do your browsing online, where you can sit still and you don’t have to get in the car, and you can do it at 11 at night after a full day of work.’”

Some experts, like Mark Weinsten, senior managing director in FTI Consulting’s Corporate Finance/Restructuring practice, say Hanukkah’s early date will have no material effect on overall sales.

But others say retailers will be able to take advantage of the fast-moving season.

“Hanukkah falling early will do nothing but strengthen the holiday forecast,” said Aria Hughes, associate retail editor for WGSN, an online trend forecasting service, citing how stores have already put out holiday displays and are offering early deals and promotions.

“In the past that might have been something that annoys the consumer and ‘why are you rushing me,’” she said. “But now there is actually a reason for it in that we have a shorter holiday season, and with Hanukkah falling 11 days earlier than last year, there’s a reason for retailers to get everyone in the mood for holiday shopping.”

This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with the Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a source at MiamiHerald.com/insight.

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