Increased optimism contribute to 2012 holiday retail forecast

Abbey Haldeman, Assistant News Editor

For more than 20 years, Anthony Luizzo, Wilkes professor of business and economics has been predicting the percentage for which Holiday retail sales will rise.

He began his retail sales predictions informally around 1990-91 by tracking sales, visiting malls and talking to different people to get direct information about sales. Now, every year around Labor Day, he will nearly set in stone his prediction and is almost always right.

For his 2012 holiday retail sales prediction, Liuzzo predicted lower than most other experts who went with a 4.1 percent increase in sales, which he chose a 3.0 percent increase due to many significant factors. While he does believe if everything went smoothly in the world, the estimate of 4 percent would be idealistic, but there are always outside variables.

“I thought, something is going to happen, not because I have a crystal ball, but because something always happens, that’s just the way the world is,” Liuzzo said. “Either there is going to be a terrorist attack, or there is going to be some upheaval in the world or – and this is the one I was right on – there is going to be weather related event.”

Beyond the uncontrolable variables, one thing Liuzzo thinks will strongly impact sales this holiday season is the recent election, which he said will effect retail sales positively no matter who wins.

“Whether it’s Obama or Romney, more people will be for the winner than for the loser so, more people will be happy than not happy,” Liuzzo said. “Either way, presidential elections are always good for retail sales.”

One of the other reasons Liuzzo believes retail sales will have a 3 percent increase this year is the amount of shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. 2012 has the longest amount of shopping days between the two holidays, with 32 total shopping days.

Because Christmas falls on a Tuesday, it also allows for a full five weekends of shopping before the holiday.

With the Saturday before Christmas being the highest in store sale day, Christmas being on a Tuesday gives shoppers the rush to buy more on that day, Liuzzo said.

Because Liuzzo makes his predictions so early on in the year, around Labor Day, he was a little nervous when there seemed to be no negative factors coming into play, but because of Hurricane Sandy, he believes he will be close to accurate this time.

Liuzzo said people have begun their holiday shopping much earlier lately. With the actual shopping taking place around Nov. 1 and the buying right after Thanksgiving. He said it’s not proven that people buy earlier, but that competition drives people and stores to advertise the holidays much earlier than they used to.

Beyond his predictions of how much the retail sales will rise, he also made a guess at what will be the “in” gift this season.

“Certainly, tech toys,” Liuzzo said.

He believes things such as the iPad and iPad mini’s, tablets, and apps will be a hit this holiday season. Also, the comeback toy of the year will be the Furby due to technology being applied to the childhood toy.

“We see this down through the years, that toys, games, dolls and other kinds of memorabilia have made comebacks,” Liuzzo said.

Associate director of marketing and communications Vicki Mayk has been working with Liuzzo’s predictions for four years now and she said his calculations are pretty accurate, being around .5 to 1 percent off at the most.

Since he began predicting formally, Liuzzo has had his predictions published in all of the local newspapers and in hundreds of other publications, including CNN, The New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Philadelphia Daily News, The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Times. For this seasons holiday forecast, he was chosen to be an expert by IBM’s Holiday Benchmark.

Why did he become interested and continue to make predictions?

Liuzzo said it somewhat of a sport for him, a professional hobby and that it’s almost driven in him.

“I like to be right,” Liuzzo said. “That’s my personality.”

Liuzzo believes that because consumers’ drive around 70 percent of retail sales, as holiday retail goes, so does consumers’ and as consumers’ go, so does the economy.

“Unlike the old expression actually, money is the route of all good, not the route of all evil if used properly.”