Holiday Outlook Brightens: Consumers Still Have Lots More Shopping to Do

National Retail Federation Raises Forecast, Expects Sales to Hit Record $469 billion.

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With just 10 days until Christmas, shoppers still have plenty of gifts to buy, leading the National Retail Federation to upgrade its holiday forecast. The group now expects holiday sales will rise 3.8% to a record $469 billion. In early October the group predicted a 2.8% increase, which fell in line with the majority of industry forecasts, which have called for an an increase between 2% and 3%.

The average consumer had completed 47% of their shopping as of the second week in December, the NRF survey found. Last year at this time, consumers had half of their holiday shopping completed. Likewise, just 8% of shoppers reported they are finished shopping, compared to 10% who were done at this time last year.

"After strong sales reports in October and November, along with a successful Black Friday weekend, retailers are cautiously optimistic that this season will turn out better than initially expected," said Matthew Shay, NRF president-CEO.

Blockbuster sales during the post-Thanksgiving period, combined with figures showing that consumers still have plenty of shopping to do now, indicate many have been buying for themselves. Self-gifting has emerged as a trend this year, as consumers snap up sale items and reward themselves after several years of holding back.

The NRF also reports that consumers have been more influenced by advertising this season. That's good news for marketers who have worked hard to craft messages that will resonate with cautious and fickle shoppers.

Nearly 20% of shoppers said this year's holiday commercials motivated them to shop at a particular retailer, the highest figure in at least five years. Shoppers also said they were more swayed by in-store and email promotions, online advertising and social media this year.

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