Total discretionary holiday spending this year is set to increase by about 5.8% over the 2017 holiday season, with in-store sales expected to rise almost 4% over last year's holiday period and online sales anticipated to grow about 15.5%, according to FTI Consulting's Holiday Retail Forecast.
FTI projected that about 60% of total U.S. retail sales growth this holiday season will be store-driven, with the remaining 40% happening through online channels, a departure from last year's holiday season sales breakdown, which saw closer to a 50/50 split between these channels, FTI said.
These projections come just days after the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics put out a forecast suggesting holiday shoppers will spend on average about $1,007 this season, about 4.1% more than the average spend during the 2017 holiday season.
'Tis the season for holiday shopping forecasts, and the two mentioned above are far from the only ones jockeying for headlines. Forrester also said recently in a new report and podcast that retailers' online holiday retail sales would surge about 14% over 2017, growing from $129 billion during last year's holiday stretch to $151 billion this year. That same Forrester report estimated in-store sales would grow only 1.7% to about $567 billion.
FTI appears to be much more bullish about the prospects for in-store sales growth this holiday season than Forrester. However, because each research firm that puts out a holiday spending forecast likes to slice and package its numbers in its own way, and rely on different data, it's hard to directly compare each forecast.
The argument also could be made that focusing on sales through separate channels doesn't mean as much as it used to even a few years ago, as the entire retail sector is increasingly becoming more omnichannel, with online purchases increasing in stores, which also tends to drive additional in-store sales. Also, some in-store sales happen entirely because of research and comparisons done by shoppers online and on mobile that have steered them to a particular brick-and-mortar store.
Still, what everybody seems to agree on is that it will be another happy holiday season for retailers, with strong growth in spending beyond what turned out to be a surprisingly strong 2017. Much of the credit for this ongoing strength, in FTI's eyes, goes to job gains in the wider economy, as well as last year's tax cuts, which FTI said has "put some extra money back in the hands of most Americans." The extent of the bill's effect may be subject to debate, but it also doesn't hurt that more stores are making holiday shopping a more pleasant experience, offering buy online/pick up in-store, overall faster delivery and fast and flexible checkout services. All of these new capabilities make Santa's job a whole lot more fun.