Expectations upbeat for increased holiday shopping

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Diane Schwenke holds out hope the holiday shopping season could be if not the most wonderful time of this year for Grand Valley businesses, then at least a bit better than last year.

“I am still upbeat about the holiday season,” said Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

More specifically, Schwenke expects holiday sales to edge up 1 percent to 2 percent over last year. “I think there’ll be a little bit of an uptick.”

Schwenke bases her prediction in part on what’s usually an increase in holiday shopping following a presidential election because consumers know with certainty who’ll occupy the White House next year.

Mesa Mall plans to attract eager shoppers with extended hours on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The chamber will remain involved in efforts to promote Small Business Saturday and holiday shopping with smaller retailers.

Nationally, holiday sales are forecast to increase based in part on job and wage growth.

The National Retail Federation expects U.S. sales in November and December to total nearly $656 billion — a 3.6 percent increase over those two months last year.

“All of the fundamentals are in a good place, giving strength to consumers and leading us to believe that this will be a very positive holiday season,” said Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer of the retail trade association.

John Kleinhenz, chief economist of the NRF, said job and wage gains have resulted in improved consumer confidence and an increase in the use of credit, which in turn bodes well for holiday shopping.

The NRF also reported the results of a survey that pegged average consumer spending for the holidays at $935.58, second only to the record spending of $952.58 in 2015.

The Conference Board reported the more modest results of its annual survey pegging average household spending on holiday gifts at $563 — down from $576 last year.

The business research and membership association said 64 percent of consumers responding to the survey indicated they expect to spend about the same as last year, while 27 percent said they’d spend less and 9 percent more.

More than three-fourths of consumers said they expect to purchase at least some of their holiday gifts online and more than a third said they plan to buy at least half their gifts online.

The overall outlook remains upbeat, said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board. “Continued job and wage growth and a confident consumer are likely to make this another good holiday season for retailers.”

In the Grand Valley, the holiday shopping season will begin in earnest on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Mesa Mall is set to open at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving and remain open for seven hours. The mall also will open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Black Friday.

“Our extended holiday hours and popular selection of retailers will meet shopper demand,” said Paul Petersen, manager at Mesa Mall. “In addition, our variety of traditional events paired with other happenings will make Mesa Mall even more appealing for friends and family to shop, dine and spend time together.”

Small Business Saturday follows Black Friday with efforts to promote holiday shopping at small businesses.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber offers kits to businesses to help them promote Small Business Saturday.

Schwenke said the effort is an important one given the holiday season can account for up to half of annual sales for some small businesses.

Shopping locally also is important because every dollar spent with a Grand Valley business circulates in the local economy three more times. Supporting local businesses means supporting local business owners who in turn support local community and philanthropic efforts, she added.

The National Federation of Independent Business and American Express reported that 48 percent of consumers who responded to a survey who are aware of Small Business Saturday and plan to shop that day expect to spend more this year than last year. While 76 percent of consumers said they plan to visit one or more small businesses as part of their holiday shopping, 91 percent said supporting small businesses is important to them.

In Palisade, Small Business Saturday includes the Art & Chocolate Walk, an event featuring artwork and unique gifts offered by participating studios and businesses as well as free chocolate. Participants who complete a punch card by visiting all of the participating merchants will be eligible to enter a drawing for a basket filled with fine art and chocolate.

“Palisade is a wonderful arts destination for the valley,” said Kay Crane, director of the Blue Pig Gallery and coordinator of the Arts & Chocolate Walk. “The Art & Chocolate Walk is a fabulous way to start the holiday season and offers visitors unique art, jewelry, gifts and more at affordable prices.”