Holiday sales expected to grow 1% in Mass. as national shopping could hit 6-year record

Holiday sales at small businesses in Massachusetts during the five-day shopping streak starting Black Friday are expected to grow marginally compared to the total haul of purchases seen last November and December, according to the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

A 1% increase in local holiday shopping comes as the National Retail Federation predicted some 182 million people are planning to shop in-store and online from Thanksgiving day through Cyber Monday, the highest estimate since the organization started tracking data in 2017.

Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst said local projections, which come from a survey of the group’s 4,000 members, are not “one of the more optimistic” outlooks.

“For all intents and purposes, it’s flat,” Hurst told the Herald Wednesday. “Consumer confidence is down a little bit right now, a reflection of the continued effects of inflation and also of … interest rates. But it’s funny, because over the years, sometimes what you ask the consumer, or even what you ask small businesses, sometimes they’re a little more conservative than what it actually ends up being.”

The strain of inflation on families and the increased costs on sellers, including inventory, wages, borrowing costs, and energy, are also raising profitability questions for local small businesses who are experiencing sales levels similar to last year, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts said.

The same pressures are also likely affecting how much consumers are willing to spend this year as lower savings and increased credit card debt persist.

The Thanksgiving weekend marks some of the busiest shopping days of the year, said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay. Businesses spend months preparing for the few days that are often marked with frantic shoppers packing or trampling into large stores.

More than three-quarters of shoppers nationally plan to purchase during the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend this year, a 69% increase from 2019, or pre-pandemic, according to the National Retail Federation.

Black Friday is still the most popular day to shop, with more than 130 million estimated customers expected to head out to stores, the National Retail Federation said. Cyber Monday comes second, with 71 million shoppers expected to purchase goods, the organization said.

Business groups are also promoting “Small Business Saturday,” an annual event that falls on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, or Nov. 25 in 2023. The event has been held every weekend after Thanksgiving since its creation following the 2009 recession.

The National Federation of Independent Business said customers spent $17.9 billion across the country on “Small Business Saturday” in 2022.

 “Main Street shops and restaurants are still struggling from the impact of labor shortages, supply chain issues, and inflation,” NFIB Massachusetts State Director Christopher Carlozzi said in a statement. “Shopping local throughout the year not only helps keep our friends and neighbors employed, but also helps keep our downtowns and communities thriving.”

Massachusetts small businesses, excluding restaurants, auto sales, and gas, are expected to see more than $24 billion in sales, Hurst said, while nationally, sales are expected to grow between 3% and 4%, or between $957 billion and $966 billion.

A majority of local shops, 60%, also report selling online this year compared to 26% during the 2019 holiday season, according to the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. National online sales are expected to total about 28% of all sales, the association said.

“With each passing year, you’re seeing perhaps not as dramatic of increases as it used to be, online from brick and mortar,” Hurst said. “But still, online sales will probably approach a double digit increase over the prior year.”

Holiday sales increased 1.2% in 2022 after shopping saw a healthy rebound after the pandemic in 2021 with a 16% surge in purchases during November and December of that year. Past holiday sales from 2020 to 2010 have ranged from an increase of 9% to a decrease of -1%, according to the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

Hurst said increased businesses and borrowing costs this year raise profitability questions for local shops.

“Your sales may be up, but the question is, are they up enough to cover your higher cost of operation?” he said.

Materials from the Associated Press were used in this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post Trexquant Investment LP Acquires Shares of 74,385 Humana Inc. (NYSE:HUM)
Next post Ticker: 32,000 Jeep Wrangler hybrids recalled; Unemployment claims drop by 24,000