It looks like this holiday season may be merrier than expected. Sales are expected to hit $469.1 billion, up from October estimates of $465.6 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. If the projected 3.8 percent increase from last year holds true, this holiday season would set a record for shopping.
Record-setting sales numbers on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are the driving force behind the estimate's upward revision. Furthermore, sales for November also have experienced a 4.5 percent increase from last year in what is a crucial time for retailers.
"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, bringing added stability to our recovering economy at a time when America needs it most," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. "However, a number of factors, including the debt crisis in Europe and continued political wrangling in Washington, could impact consumer spending this holiday season and into 2012."
A last-minute push by consumers, however, may add to these numbers as the NRF found that this year's holiday shoppers had completed less shopping at this point than in past years. One effort trying to drive up sales in the last days before Christmas is Free Shipping Day, which is taking place today (Dec. 16). Now in its fourth year, Free Shipping Day occurs the week before Christmas and has grown from 250 participating retailers in 2008 to more than 2,500 participants this year.
"Last year the event generated $942 million in online sales and became the third heaviest online shopping event in history," Kendal Perez, spokesperson for Free Shipping Day, told BusinessNewsDaily. "We hope to be as successful as we were last year. Given that online shopping is up between 15 and 22 percent this year, we are really eager to see what this event brings for merchants."
The event was started in 2008 by Luke Knowles, who founded FreeShipping.org.
"Free Shipping Day was started after Luke was reading a statistic that online shopping peaked around Dec. 10 or earlier, because online shoppers didn’t feel confident that their orders would get to them by Christmas Eve," Perez said. "He knew better, due to some work he had done with retailers and online merchants, so he created Free Shipping Day to bring awareness to consumers that they could shop later in the month and still get their orders on time."