With Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season looming, retailers across the Sunshine State can expect strong sales in the weeks to come. 

On Monday, the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) released its annual look at the holiday season and predicted 3 to 3.5 percent higher sales from last year. 

“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,” said Scott Shalley, the president and CEO of the FRF. “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.”

Shalley insisted that Florida’s strong economy will help ensure that Hurricane Irma, which hit the state in September, will not make much of a dent in this year’s holiday season. 

“Hurricane Irma hit our state extremely hard… and we factored in this impact in our forecast, 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,” said Shalley.

Across the nation, according to the National Retail Federation, the average consumer is going to spend $967 on gifts this season, up from $935 last year and higher than the record of $952 in 2015. Overall, holiday shopping will total $678 billion, higher than last year’s $655 billion.

Noting that Florida is expected to host more than 100 million tourists this year, Shalley showcased the important role retailers play in the state’s economy. 

“Tourism continues to be a powerful influence on the success of Florida’s economy and specifically the retail industry, and 2017 is expected to set a new record on number of tourists which is great news for our members,”  Shalley said.

Shalley also noted the important role retailers play in job creation as more than 270,000 businesses employ 2.7 million Floridians, ensuring one out of five residents of the state work in that industry. Across the county, around 500,000 to 550,000 Americans will have temporary jobs in retail for the holidays. 

“The holiday season is a great time for new or returning professionals to enter the workforce as millions of temporary jobs turn into full-time jobs once the holiday shopping season is over,” said Shalley. “We look forward to the thousands of new jobs that families will have this year as a result of Florida’s retail industry.”

Gift cards continue to be the most popular gift followed by clothes; entertainment including books, movies and music; electronics; home décor and furnishings; and jewelry. Shoppers continue to start early with 40 percent of them having started by Halloween and 29 percent of them having bought all their holiday gifts before Black Friday

“Retailers are responding to the demand by consumers to have the holiday shopping experience prior to the traditional late November/December timeframe,” Shalley said. “This is why consumers are already seeing holiday decorations and themes in stores, as retailers try to get shoppers in the Christmas shopping mindset earlier.”

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