CINCINNATI (AP) - Economic forecasters say Ohio's rebounding economy and improved jobs picture mean a brighter holiday sales outlook for the state's retailers than during the recession.
A University of Cincinnati Economics Center forecast released Monday projects a 4.2 percent increase in retail sales for November and December this year, over the same period last year. The study was for the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.
Forecasters say consumer confidence is up while consumer debt is down, and they note that Ohio's unemployment rate has also fallen from double digits during the Great Recession to below 7 percent. Overall U.S. retail sales have also been in an upward, post-recession trend, the economic forecasters say.
A woman leaves Eastgate Mall after shopping Monday in Cincinnati.
"We're cautiously optimistic," said Gordon Gough, executive vice president of the retail council. "Consumers, No. 1, have a bit more confidence to spend and are more able to spend."
The holiday shopping period can make up as much as 40 percent of a retailer's annual revenue. Target Corp. last week expressed optimism about holiday sales, saying consumers are expected to spend more nationally, while remaining focused on value, pricing and promotions.
Many households became more frugal amid the uncertainty of the recession, with many people worried about being out of work or about job insecurity.
The researchers say possible drags on holiday spending could come from concerns about gas prices and the so-called federal fiscal cliff looming at year's end if there is no deal in Washington on expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts.
After many households reduced their debt in recent years, retailers think there is some pent-up demand for electronics and other big-ticket items consumers have been putting off buying. The UC forecasters say surveys indicate popularly desired gifts, too, are cash and gift cards.
The study anticipates taxable Ohio retail sales of nearly $15 billion for November and December. The biggest portion will be in Columbus metro area, which forecasters expect to see increase 7.5 percent in holiday retail sales. That's followed by a 5.7 percent hike forecast in Akron, 3.9 percent for Dayton, 3.8 in Cincinnati, 3.6 percent in both Cleveland and Toledo, and 3.4 percent for Youngstown.