The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Experts predict a modest boost in 2013 holiday sales

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Retailers in Southern California will receive a modest boost in holiday sales this year, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Economist Kimberly Ritter-Martinez said she estimates holiday sales nationally will increase 3.4 percent. She expects Southern California will follow that trend.

"People are feeling a little bit better about the economy," Ritter-Martinez said. "When Christmas rolls around ... people tend to try to shake off whatever any worries they might have, to the extent that their employment and income situation permits." 

She said there has been a "slow but steady growth" in the economy. She said consumers are feeling better about the improving labor and housing markets. Although the government shutdown did affect consumer confidence, Ritter-Martinez said she believes shoppers will still spend money for holiday presents.

Retailers have been more promotional this year, getting shoppers to think about Christmas even earlier with commercials and decorations before Halloween. Stores including Macy's and Kohl's plan to open locations on Thanksgiving Day for the first time this year.

"We are seeing retailers pulling out all the stops to get people out," Ritter-Martinez said. "They are doing everything they can to get people shopping earlier to counter that shorter period in between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year." 

Ritter-Martinez spoke at the Glendale Galleria on Tuesday, as part of an annual holiday retail panel. Glendale Galleria said it expects sales to increase 3 percent at the mall during the holiday shopping season.

A more careful approach to shopping

Not all retail analysts are predicting a rosy Christmas. Bill Martin, founder and executive vice president of ShopperTrak, which measures traffic at retail stores, predicted a more modest 2.4 percent uptick in retail sales for 2013. In an online presentation he said he expects shoppers to use a more "surgical approach" - making targeted purchases and visiting fewer stores. Britt Beemer, CEO of America's Research Group, said 44 percent of consumers he surveyed couldn't afford to finish their back-to-school shopping this year

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