Holiday sales to increase 4%

Total holiday sales are expected to reach between $981 billion and $986 billion this year, a 4 to 4.5 percent increase over last season.

According to Deloitte's annual retail holiday sales forecast, which measures retail growth from November through January, the steadily improving economy should be a good indicator that retail sales will be up this holiday season.

"Income, wage and job growth are positive indicators heading into the holiday season," said Daniel Bachman, Deloitte's senior U.S. economist.  "Debt levels remain at historical lows, and stock market gains coupled with increasing home prices have a wealth effect on consumers, which may encourage increased spending compared with prior years."

The predicted growth rate is a moderate improvement over last year's 2.8 percent gain.

Additionally, Deloitte forecasts a 13.5 to 14 percent increase in online and mail order sales.

"While online sales continue to climb, digital customer interactions through both virtual and physical store channels present greater sales opportunities than online or mobile commerce alone," said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte.

Research indicates that 84 percent of shoppers use digital tools before and during trips to the store. These shoppers also make 40 percent more purchases than those who do not use digital devices.

In total, Deloitte forecasts that digital will influence 50 percent, for $345 billion, of retail sales this holiday season. Therefore, Paul noted that retailers should focus on quality functionality rather than more functionality when creating digital experiences.

Retailers themselves are also optimistic about the holiday season. As many as 86 percent report expected increases in year-over-year online holiday sales, according to a ChannelAdvisor multichannel e-commerce study. In preparation, 70 percent of retailers plan to hire staff at 2013 levels with an emphasis on bringing on even more permanent members, up to 24 percent from 12 percent last season.

For more:
-See this Deloitte press release

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