Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Caution to Keep Lid on Retail Cheer

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Caution to Keep Lid on Retail Cheer

Article excerpt

Retailers will have a jollier holiday season this year, but still- wary consumers will make it less merry than it could otherwise be, said experts at a Christmas sales conference in New York on Thursday.

Overall spending in November and December is expected to be more robust than last year, but much of the expected increase could go to restaurant meals and general, non-holiday purchases, giving specialty apparel, gift and general merchandise retailers another tough Christmas, retail analysts said at the annual conference hosted by the Retail Marketing Society.

The conference, co-sponsored by The Center for Professional Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology and investment firm Morgan Stanley, drew about 100 retail professionals to FIT's Katie Murphy Amphitheatre.

The conference was held as many retailers are gearing up to begin holiday promotions this weekend, with some saying that Nov. 1 has replaced Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving - as the start date for serious holiday shopping.

Retailers are again motivated to start holiday promotions early this year because the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is relatively short. There are 27 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, compared with 26 last year, the fewest possible.

The lowest gasoline prices in four years and the 2 million jobs added so far this year mean "lots more aggregate income sloshing around in the economy," this holiday season, said Ellen Zentner, senior economist and managing director at Morgan Stanley. But consumers, Zentner said, are reluctant to spend freely because they "remain unconvinced that the good times will continue."

Morgan Stanley is estimating that real discretionary income will be up 4.3 percent this holiday season compared to a year ago, driven by the job growth and lower gas prices. The firm is expecting nationwide gasoline prices, on average, to be just under $3 a gallon during the season, which frees up about $40 billion in discretionary income, Zenter said. …

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