Americans are feeling exuberant this Christmas. Consumer confidence (at a 17-year high) is driving the expected growth in retail sales. And that, forecasters suggest, means retailers should see a growth in seasonal sales of 4.5 percent. That compares to 3.6 percent growth in 2016. What does that mean for total retail sales? It means that consumers will shell out over $1 trillion ($1.04 to $1.05 trillion) for the first time in the history of U.S. business. Yup, you read it correctly, that a whopping $1 trillion, one twentieth of the nation’s debt will be spent this Christmas on gifts.

Rumors have been circulating that the buying habits of Americans, including those right here in the Tri-Lakes Area, have been moving away from traditional brick and mortar retailers to E-commerce sales. Experts expect digital sales to increase 18 to 21 percent this Christmas season. That means that nearly 80 percent of the Christmas shoppers will be visiting local businesses to find that special gift for that special someone.

“With shoppers being ‘smarter than ever,’” Rod Sides, of Deloitte’s Retail & Distribution, said he anticipates e-retailers’ share of the market to continue to grow, but that doesn’t mean brick-and-mortar guys are losing a share of the pie. “Even the big retailers continue to pick up e-commerce share.”

Who are the big players in E-commerce? Of course there’s Amazon, which is being challenged by Wal-Mart, the behemoth of discount brick and mortar marketing, and, it seems that most retailers savvy enough to see the growth in online shopping as a potential bottom line tool are getting in on the E-commerce trade.

Meanwhile, 21 big retailers plan to close stores by the end of 2017. While there have been traditional businesses downsizing and some even shuttering their brick and mortar sites altogether, most traditional businesses will be experiencing a lot of Yule Tide shopping.

Most of the consumer confidence was expected after more than 10 years of a down economy. The era of home foreclosures, 401k losses and joblessness is in the rear-view mirror of consumers and they’re looking ahead to better times. They’re acting out their confidence by spending at a record level.

This Christmas should be a Merry Christmas for retailers in the Tri-Lakes Area and recipients of gift-giving.

Keith Hansen

BUSINESS

There are two times in a man’s life when he should not speculate: when he can’t afford it, and when he can.

Mark Twain

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