Forecasters are predicting a robust holiday shopping season for Florida retailers.

The Florida Retail Federation, the trade association representing the state’s retailers, is predicting a 4 percent increase in sales for Sunshine State retailers, which is expected to outpace the national average of between 3.3 and 3.5 percent.

Florida benefits from 100 million tourists visiting the state during the 61-day holiday shopping season from November through December. Surveys consistently list shopping as one of the top vacation activities.

“Florida’s economy remains strong, unemployment is at a 9-year low, housing remains hot and 100 million extra shoppers in the form of tourists are expected again, which should lead to a successful holiday shopping season for our 270,000 retailers statewide,” said Randy Miller, president and CEO of the federation.

Consumers are expected to spend an average of $935 on gifts, with a breakdown of $590 on gifts for family, friends and co-workers, $207 on decorations, flowers and greeting cards and $140 on themselves.

Total spending is expected to increase to more than $655 billion, up from $630 billion last year thanks to the continued growth and spending of millennials, according to the forecast. Consumer spending accounts for 75 percent of Florida’s $155 billion a year gross domestic product.

To entice shoppers, retailers will be offering incentives, low prices, price-matching options, hot-selling toys and free shipping, which continues to be one of the most popular requested promotions each year.

Gift cards are the most popular item for the 10th year in a row. Gift cards are not included in store sales until the card is redeemed so total economic impact is even higher than forecast, according to Miller.

The most popular toys this holiday season include Nerf items, LEGOS, toys from Disney Junior Channel cartoons, microphones, drones and merchandise from two movies, “Trolls” and “Star Wars: Rogue One.” Big ticket items for tech-savvy adults include smartphones and tablets, TVs, video games and video game systems.

Retailers depend on the holiday season for 20 to 40 percent of their annual sales. Florida’s retail industry employs 2.7 million Floridians, and is responsible for one out of every four jobs.

One of the positive impacts of the holiday shopping season is an increase in employment. Nationally, the industry is expected to see between 640,000-690,000 seasonal jobs.

“The holiday shopping season means tens of thousands of jobs for Floridians, and much needed income for families this time of year,” said Miller. “Every temporary job has the possibility to turn into a permanent one, and retail still remains the best industry for young, new or returning workers to find employment, learn valuable skills and grow themselves professionally.”

Miller advised shoppers to buy early. Just as technology has made shoppers smarter and savvier, it has also allowed retailers to better respond to demand by matching their inventory and not overstocking their merchandise, he said.

About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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