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Holiday sales in Florida to grow by 3 to 3.5 percent

Florida shoppers are expected to increase their holiday spending by 3 percent to 3.5 percent this year, a growth rate slightly less than the projected national average for November and December thanks in large part to Hurricane Irma, the Florida Retail Federation said Monday.

Holiday sales are expected to grow by 3.6 to 4 percent nationwide, but the financial strain caused by the storm may leave some Floridians spending less this season, the federation’s President and CEO Scott Shalley said.

The federation said Irma’s impact played a significant factor in its statewide forecast for holiday sales. Typically, holiday spending in the state hovers at or above that of the rest of the country.

RELATED: Longer shopping season to help boost holiday retail sales

Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sept. 10, knocking out power, downing trees and causing damage from South Florida to Jacksonville. As residents continue to recover from the storm, some may have less to spend on holiday gifts and supplies this year, the federation said.

“Hurricane Irma hit our state extremely hard,” Shalley said. “But we feel the overall strength of our economy and the incredible recovery efforts that have taken place will help lessen the impact on retail sales this holiday season.”

Shalley pointed to Florida’s booming tourism industry, low unemployment rate, and strong housing market — key factors he said should provide a boost to the retail industry during the holiday shopping rush.

“This season should be another strong one for our retail members, thanks to a 10-year low unemployment rate, a strong housing market, high consumer confidence and 100 million tourists leaving with more than what they came with,” Shalley said. “Due to the increased competition among retailers, consumers should expect great deals and discounts as they enjoy the annual holiday shopping season with friends and family.”

Shoppers are expected to spend between $678.75 billion and $682 billion in November and December, up from $655.8 billion during the same time frame last year, according to the National Retail Federation said.

On average, shoppers will spend a record $967 on gifts, which is up 3.4 percent from 2016’s average of $935, the national group said.

Consumers will also have more time to shop this year. There are 32 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas — one day more than there was in 2016.

With the rise on online sales, Shalley said it is important for consumers to move quickly if they find a product at a price they like. Just as technology has made shoppers smarter and more savvy, it has also allowed retailers to better respond to demand by matching their inventory and not overstocking their merchandise, the federation said.

“If you see a product you really want at a price you want, buy early and don’t wait for a better deal,” Shalley said.

In Florida, consumer spending accounts for 75 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, totaling $155 billion each year, the state’s retail federation said.

Florida’s retail industry employ 2.7 million people, and is responsible for one out of every five jobs, the federation said.

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