The iconic Christmas tree is scheduled to arrive at Rockefeller Plaza on Friday in New York City, ushering in the start of what is expected to be the busiest holiday shopping season ever.
It’s also the first time that holiday sales are expected to surpass the trillion dollar mark — largely due to low unemployment, strong income growth, and increased consumer confidence, according to a study from eMarketer, a market research company. Total retail sales in the United States are expected to be $1.002 trillion for the period between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31.
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That’s also a 5.8 percent increase compared to last year, marking the strongest growth in holiday spending since 2011, according to eMarketer.
The report comes as some brick-and-mortar retailers have been forced out of business or to close unprofitable locations, largely due to the increased competition from Amazon and other online retailers.
Toys R Us, once a popular holiday shopping destination, closed its final store in June. Sears and Kmart, which are owned by the same holding company, are preparing to close 188 stores by the end of the year and 40 more by February in a bid to reorganize and revive the brands.
Online retailers are making double digit gains this year, but traditional retail is still expected to be a “bright spot” this holiday season, said Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst at eMarketer. Retailers are expected to see a 4.4 percent increase in sales, accounting for $878.38 billion in holiday receipts, according to the research.
That growth is being fueled by remodeled stores, streamlined checkouts, and the option to buy online and pick up an item in-store, Lipsman said.
Retailers and delivery services are already staffing up with seasonal hires to ensure they’re ready to meet the holiday demand, but they are competing in the tightest labor market in nearly 50 years.
Target is hiring 120,000 seasonal employees, the largest ever hiring announcement from a brick-and-mortar retailer, according to global staffing company Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Macy’s plans to hire at least 80,000 people to help with the holiday rush, while J.C. Penney said it would hire at least 39,000 seasonal workers. FedEx is hiring 55,000 people to help ensure holiday packages arrive on time.