UF Economists: Florida Consumer Confidence Gets Pre-Holiday Boost
GAINESVILLE — Consumer confidence in Florida rose two points in November, an unexpected gain for late in the year that bodes well for holiday retail sales, University of Florida economists report.
The preliminary index for November inched up to 103, fueled by strong gains in the survey components measuring optimism about short- and long-term U.S. business conditions, said Chris McCarty, survey director with UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
“This result comes as a surprise,” McCarty said. “Although confidence rose between October and November of last year, the pattern for the past several years has been a decline in confidence from September through December, with an increase in confidence in January.
“Despite back-to-back interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve and the Y2K bug looming, consumers appear to be willing to spend,” he said. “Early indications are that consumers are not going to wait until January to make their purchases.”
Over the past five years, post-Christmas sales have risen relative to sales during November and December, said UF economist Dave Denslow.
“People were putting off holiday shopping until after Christmas, perhaps to take advantage of sales,” Denslow said. “This year confident consumers may be ready to spend now and spend later.”
The Retail Index maintained by Telecheck, a national check acceptance service, reports sales the day after Thanksgiving were up 6.4 percent over last year and up 5.8 percent in Florida alone, McCarty said. Internet sales are up as well, as reported by sites such as Yahoo! and Amazon.com., he said.
In other positive economic signs, inflation increased by only .2 percent in October, and the level of unemployment remained virtually unchanged, he said.
Consumer confidence in November is not equal for all groups of people. Those 60 and older report a significant decline in their personal financial situations now compared with a year ago, McCarty said. Yet those same respondents are very optimistic about their financial situations a year from now and about U.S. business conditions in the future, he said.
The bureau conducts the Florida Consumer Attitude Survey monthly. Respondents are 18 or older and live in households telephoned randomly. The preliminary index for November was calculated from 488 responses. The margin of error for the index is 4 percent.
Consumer confidence is designed to help predict buying patterns by measuring consumers’ mood toward buying. Although other economic indicators also are predictors of buying patterns, consumer confidence tends to be available sooner than those indicators.
- Cathy Keen, firstname.lastname@example.org, (352) 392-0186
- Chris McCarty