Despite Stock Market Problems, Holidays Look Healthy For Retailers
GAINESVILLE — Even with a stock market experiencing some turbulence, Florida’s consumer confidence continued its uphill trend in October and pointed toward a happy holiday season for retailers, University of Florida economists report.
The preliminary consumer confidence index for the month rose to 102, gaining one point from September and reaching another eight-year high, said economists with UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, which conducts the survey.
“If Floridians don’t let turmoil in the world’s stock market spook them, retailers can expect 1997 holiday sales to be 5 percent higher than last year,” said UF economist Dave Denslow. “With jobs plentiful and inflation low, 75 percent of our respondents are telling us that now is a good time for major purchases, up from 69 percent a year ago.”
Retail sales for the third quarter increased substantially over the second quarter, largely boosted by auto sales. Inflation is a low 2.2 percent, despite a tight labor market where competition for employees appears high.
With consumer confidence still high this close to the holidays, nothing seems likely to affect consumer spending this holiday season, said Chris McCarty, the survey director.
“Consumers seem largely indifferent to the swings in the stock market, so a fall will probably not affect holiday sales. Our best estimate is that it will be a strong holiday season,” McCarty said.
“Retailers should consider what happened last year, though, when post-holiday retail sales were very strong compared to pre-holiday sales,” he said. “Consumers might plan to wait for after-Christmas sales to get more bang for the buck.”
Consumers this month appear optimistic about U.S. business conditions during the next year. That index is 16 points higher than it was last October.
Florida’s regions as tracked by the survey showed growth or stability in overall confidence. In the North, consumers’ expectations for personal finances a year from now dropped from 107 points in September to 103. The central region saw the largest increase, up three points from September’s 106.
In anticipation of holiday hiring, 34 percent of those employed say extra help will be hired at their workplace during the next six months. This estimate had fallen since July to 31 percent in September.
The Florida Consumer Attitude Survey is conducted monthly by the bureau. Respondents are 18 or older and live in households telephoned randomly. The preliminary index for October was calculated form 970 responses. Numbers for prior months are based on about 1,000 responses.
The margin of error for the statewide index is two points, while that for the regions is higher, ranging between four and five points.
- Kristen Vecellio