Holiday Sales Keep Growing, But Consumers Are Worried About Tariffs

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By now, many of us are probably starting to think about our holiday purchases. From gifts to personal treats to party necessities, there’s rarely a shortage of things to buy around the holiday season. This year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said it expects holiday retail sales during November and December to increase between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent compared with 2018. The expected total spend will hit between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion—and that’s excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

According to the NRF, this increase compares with an average holiday sales increase of 3.7 percent over the previous five years. In a statement, NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said, “The U.S. economy is continuing to grow and consumer spending is still the primary engine behind that growth. Nonetheless, there has clearly been a slowdown brought on by considerable uncertainty around issues including trade, interest rates, global risk factors and political rhetoric. Consumers are in good financial shape and retailers expect a strong holiday season. However, confidence could be eroded by continued deterioration of these and other variables.”

In addition, the NRF expects online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, to increase between 11 percent and 14 percent to between $162.6 billion and $166.9 billion, up from $146.5 billion last year. The NRF also mentioned that 79 percent of consumers surveyed in September were concerned that tariffs will cause prices to rise, potentially affecting their approach to shopping.

Take a look at the chart below, created by the NRF, to see how holiday retail sales have changed over the past 17 years.