Holiday shopping kicks off today


By Kalea Hall

khall@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Get out your wallets: It’s time to spend, spend, spend!

The kickoff to holiday shopping starts today with retailers offering deals — some of which could be considered steals — on toys, electronics and even cars.

Best Buy, Dick’s and Walmart are some of the retailers opening this evening with a list of offers on items they hope gift-givers buy.

But holiday shopping isn’t only about giving to friends and family. It’s about giving to the economy.

“Consumer spending is 70 percent of the U.S. economy,” said Mekael Teshome, PNC Bank economist. “If the consumer is healthy then the U.S. economy is healthy. That’s a big reason why we watch sales.”

For some businesses, this time of year is the biggest money maker.

“If holiday sales aren’t that good, then it could spell trouble for them for the rest of the year,” Teshome said. “It helps consumer confidence and business confidence.”

And, the more sales, the more tax revenue for local governments.

Teshome and the National Retail Federation both say holiday sales will be up over last year’s sales. The federation expects sales between November and December to increase 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion year-over-year. Nonstore sales are expected to increase between 7 percent and 10 percent to as much $17 billion.

Teshome, however, doesn’t expect the increase over last year to be momentous.

“We have had some improvement in income growth and that will help holiday sales, [but] the economy is not exactly red hot,” he said. “I do not expect it to be a block buster season.”

Ohio’s retail industry accounts for $26.5 billion of the state’s economy and it supports 1.5 million jobs, according to the Ohio Council for Retail Merchants.

In a study released this week, the merchants’ research arm Focus on Ohio’s Future and the University of Cincinnati Economics Center said Ohio’s 2016 holiday retail spending is expected to increase 1.54 percent year-over-year to $22.2 billion.

Sales outlooks are expected to be stronger in Youngstown, Mansfield and Lima than statewide or in Ohio’s largest metro regions. Youngstown ranks first among major metro areas in the state with a growth projection of 6.2 percent.

The study indicated slower growth than in recent years. Last year, holiday sales were up about 2.2 percent and the year before they were up about 4 percent from the previous year.

“The slight decline in growth rate over last year’s holiday sales in Ohio could be the result of national trends shifting consumer preferences away from goods towards entertainment and experiences,” said Jennifer Shand, University of Cincinnati Economics Center senior research associate. “Mobile and online sales continue to grow as well, as consumers enjoy the competition for their dollars shown in more price, product and service options.”

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