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It’s mid-October, which means it’s basically holiday shopping season already. The economy is in kind of a strange place this year — just like it has been in each of the last two years, but for different reasons.
And this year, we are probably going to spend more.
“This year we’re expecting solid growth, about 5%, 5.5% up from last year,” said Michael Zdinak, economics director with S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Five percent growth isn’t bad; it’s better than the pre-pandemic average of 3.9% growth. Except, of course, for inflation. Factor that in, and it looks like holiday spending isn’t going to grow at all.
“So in terms of real growth, we’re expecting real sales to decline this year 0.2%,” Zdinak said. “This is the first time in 30 years since we’ve started tracking this data where the rise in prices has outpaced the rise in spending.”
Another way of saying that: We’re gonna spend more and get less. There is an exception to this, and it’s online.
“Online retail inflation has actually slowed,” said Vivek Pandya, a lead analyst with Adobe. “We’re seeing overall online prices down a little under a percent year over year.”
Online goods include a lot of electronics and apparel — categories where supply chains have improved or there’s a lot of extra inventory. He said there will be real growth for online shopping, about 2.5%, even accounting for inflation. And shoppers, whether it’s online or offline, are adapting to inflation.
“Forty percent of holiday shoppers say that inflation will change the way they shop,” said Ted Rossman, a senior analyst with Bankrate.com, which has conducted surveys of consumers. “That includes seeking out discounts more aggressively, buying fewer items, starting shopping earlier.”
A quarter of holiday shoppers started before the end of September he said, another quarter start this month, in part because retailers are offering discounts and offering them earlier too.
So be on the lookout for Christmas trees in October.
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