NEW YORK — Retailers should expect small gains in 2011 holiday sales, Deloitte forecast on Monday. The company’s retail and distribution practice expects total holiday sales to reach between $873 and $877 billion, representing a 2.5 to 3% increase over last season.
"Consumer spending was on the rise for several months despite dampened confidence in the economy among U.S. households," said Carl Steidtmann, Deloitte's chief economist. "Those earlier gains have begun to flatten and may be tempered by persistent weakness in the housing and employment sectors and pressures from the European debt crisis. Despite some relief in energy prices, consumers may feel the strain from food, apparel and other categories where prices are markedly higher compared to the previous holiday season. Additionally, retailers will face tougher comparisons this year after last year's substantial increase in holiday sales."
Additionally, Deloitte forecasts a 14% increase in non-store sales, with nearly three-quarters of the sales resulting from the online channel with additional sales coming from catalogs and interactive TV.
"Double-digit growth in the non-store channel has given the industry a major boost, and retailers that put online channels to work for their physical storefronts have the advantage," said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. retail & distribution sector leader.
Paul noted that the brick-and-mortar store is still central to the shopper experience.
“Retailers that integrate the power of the sensory experience in-store with relevant, timely information via their websites and mobile applications are well-positioned to lead the way this holiday season,” she said.
While economic events have the potential to soften consumer spending this season, businesses are already operating at lean and efficient levels and positioning themselves to weather a period of slow growth, according to Paul. But she warned that retailers should be prepared with contingency plans.
"Retailers need to be nimble enough to quickly adapt and adjust their inventory, assortment, pricing and promotional strategies when consumer demand fluctuates,” Paul said.