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Friday, October 12, 2012 - 3:30am

Holiday Sales Up In Early Forecasts

Shoppers have just 82 gift-buying days left until Christmas [as of 10/2]. It may seem early to start that countdown, but retailers are already looking toward the holiday season, and forecasters expect sales to grow.

The National Retail Federation’s holiday sales forecast is predicting growth around 4 percent this year, down a bit from the last two years.

But the president of the Georgia Retail Association called that “conservative,” saying stores here have seen better sales every month compared to a year ago.

“I think [4 percent] would be a bottom of what we would estimate in Georgia,” said Rick McAllister. “I think you’re probably looking at something a little north of that, in the 5 percent, 6 percent range, which is good, steady growth over the previous year.”

McAllister said Georgians see a better housing market, stronger retirement plans and improving job prospects, which all mean higher consumer confidence. He said that confidence translates to spending – not a blockbuster holidays season, but one of solid increases.

McAllister said seasonal hiring looks like it will increase, too.

“That’s good news for two different groups of people. A lot of seasonal hiring is people who are looking for a second job to pay the bills during the holidays so they don’t go into debt. And then there are those who are looking for a full-time job and [a seasonal job] gives them an opportunity to show their stuff.”