The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) is predicting strong holiday sales which will help boost the Sunshine States economy.
Rick McAllister, the president and CEO of the FRF, spoke with the media at Governors Square Mall in Tallahassee on Friday and expressed optimism about the holiday shopping season.
The economy is looking better, McAllister said. Were finding some signs of rays of Florida sunshine.
While national estimates show a 3-to-4 percent increase in holiday sales for retailers, McAllister said Florida retailers could do even better.
Floridas going to be higher than the rest of the nation, McAllister insisted, suggesting retailers in the Sunshine State could see a 4.5 percent increase from last year. McAllister pointed to a host of factors showing Floridas economy is on the rebound.
Unemployment is down; 401(k)s are up; and visitors are flocking to Florida, McAllister said. A member of the board of Visit Florida, McAllister pointed to the reports showing 2.5 million more tourists visited Florida in the third quarter of 2013 than during the same period last year. While theyre here, theyre buying things, McAllister said.
McAllister had harsh words for President Barack Obama and Congress for creating a climate of uncertainty. Santa is going to be pretty busy delivering coal in Washington this year, but we are cautiously optimistic that Floridians wont let the uncertainty manufactured inside the Beltway tarnish their enthusiasm, McAllister said.
McAllister said the increasingly early start of the holiday shopping season helped both retailers.
Despite some claims last year that retailers would ruin the holiday by choosing to be open for business, consumers showed that given the opportunity, they are more than happy to make shopping a part of their Thanksgiving Day activities, McAllister explained. It is a decision ultimately driven by customer demand, and it looks like Turkey Day shopping is here to stay.
McAllister said families were increasingly shopping together on Thanksgiving. Its become alsmost as much a tradition on Thanksgiving Day as football has, he insisted.
Gift cards remain the top purchase of holiday shoppers, with around $28 billion sold across the nation last year and almost $2 billion of gift cards sold in Florida during last years holidays. Online shopping continues to rise and McAllister estimated an increase of 15 percent at the state and national levels over last years holiday season.
Pointing to seasonal hiring, McAllister said more companies would be hiring temporary workers, calling it a boon for employers with more than 100,000 Floridians getting additional hours or temporary jobs during the holidays.
McAllister said toys, apparel, jewelry and electronics would be hot items this season.
Representatives from JCPenney and Best Buy attended the event and noted they were hiring more seasonal associates and were keeping longer hours to accommodate holiday shoppers. Staff from Best Buy said the release of the next generation of gaming consoles -- the Playstation 4 and the XBox One -- were helping generate increased traffic and sales.
We have all the right ingredients for a holly, jolly shopping season, McAllister said.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.