Trying to forecast 2020 holiday sales is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle without having all the pieces, according to National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.
“Completing a puzzle is highly probable given patience, having all the pieces and having the picture on the box to guide assembly,” he said. “But it’s not the same when attempting to fit pieces of the economy together in today’s environment. Many of the pieces are missing.”
On a positive note, Kleinhenz pointed out that consumer spending has recovered from the coronavirus pandemic more quickly than expected.
“I am cautiously optimistic about the fourth quarter in terms of the economy and consumer spending, but the outlook is clouded with uncertainty pivoting on Covid 19 infection rates.”
Kleinhenz says the recession appears to be behind us and the re-opening of the economy over the past several months has created momentum that should carry through the fourth quarter.
“The test is whether consumer spending will be sustained amid wildcard puzzle pieces including policy surprises, the election and a resurgent virus.”
A second wave of Covid 19 and the failure of Congress to provide new fiscal support, could create an economic speedbump resulting in slower spending growth or even a contraction in spending, Kleinhenz said.
Despite that warning, he believes solid evidence signals a better-than-expected outcome through the just-ended third quarter, including retail and housing spending and employment growth. Also, although currently consumer confidence is low, he noted it is showing increasing improvement.