Strong Ga. economy, consumer confidence to boost 2017 holiday shopping

2:01 p.m Monday, Nov. 27, 2017 Business
11/22/2017, Sandy Springs, GA - Brooke Henze, of Sandy Springs, places stringed lights onto a Christmas tree inside of her store, The Swell Shop, Wednesday, November 22, 2017. Brooke spent the day decorating and organizing the shop in order to have it operational for the upcoming Small Business Saturday. The store, which will sell American made textiles and personalized heirloom gifts, started exclusively online in December of 2013. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Local and national economic experts expect the next four weeks of holiday sales to be among the strongest in years as the American economy chugs along after a long period of slow growth.

But it might not be enough to save your local Macy’s or Toys “R” Us.

With lower unemployment, a surging stock market and rising consumer confidence, consumers are willing to spend at a level close to those seen pre-Great Recession, the experts said.

“In 2016, the median household income, adjusted for inflation, finally passed 2007 levels,” said Chris Christopher, an economist at London-based financial analysis firm IHS Markit. “That is leading to consumers to feel more confident. It’s going to be a good year.”

It’s easy to forget these common-sense tips in the rush of holiday shopping.

Overall, 2017 holiday sales are expected to be up 4.2 percent nationally over 2016, Christopher said. Online sales are projected to make up 18.3 percent of holiday sales, up from 16.8 percent last year, Christopher said.

A recent survey of more than 4,000 Georgians by AAA Auto Club Group found that state residents plan to spend an average of $946 overall on holiday gifts in 2017 — 14 percent more than they spent between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year.

There’s a 40 percent increase in the number of shoppers who plan to buy gifts this holiday season.

“People are making a little more money and feeling comfortable traveling and purchasing things,” said Megan Osborne, a Triple A spokeswoman.

The sales uptick won’t take pressure off brick-and-mortar retailers, Christopher said. Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy protection in September in part because of the impact of online e-commerce competition, such as Amazon, and greater interest in consumer electronics, such as phones and tablets, instead of dolls and board games.

Other big box giants, such as Macy’s, Sears, JCPenney and Kohl’s, are expected to weigh whether to continue closing under-performing stores in 2018 after the holiday numbers come in. The brands have already shuttered locations at North DeKalb and Northlake malls, the Mall at Stonecrest and other shopping centers around the metro Atlanta area.

The next generations of shoppers — millennials and Generation Z — are expected to increase their spending during the holidays this year compared to 2016, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

The organizations found that consumers aged 18 to 24 — which include the oldest members of Generation Z — plan to spend 46 percent more this year than last. Millennial consumers — those ages 25 to 34 — will spend 39 percent more in 2017, the survey found.


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