The survey indicates Hurricane Sandy could be a factor in this year's shopping season for consumers, especially those in the affected downstate areas.
The organization compiled the survey information in the month before the storm hit the downstate area.
The survey indicates retailers are confident about this year's shopping, but Sandy is now part of the equation, says the Retail Council's Rebecca Flach.
"So that now throws a whole new variable with consumers, particularly downstate consumers who may have lost homes, vehicles, and other assets," Flach says.
Retailers believe that holiday shopping revenue all comes down to consumer confidence in the economy, which Flach says is the same message over the past four or five shopping seasons.
"What we've witnessed over the past several months is increasing consumer confidence. The reports that we're seeing both at the state level and nationwide were looking pretty upbeat, prior to the storm," Flach says.
The Retail Council survey also indicates nearly 4 in 5 retailers have plans for seasonal hiring.
Below you'll find the complete news release from the Retail Council of New York State.
Before Hurricane Sandy left its mark on New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley, the majority of New York retailers were confident and prepared for a strong 2012 holiday shopping season. That’s according to a survey of Retail Council of New York State members conducted just prior to the storm where 78 percent of participating retailers said they expected 2012 holiday season numbers to be the same as or better than 2011.
“Retailers were poised for a healthy holiday season, but downstate consumers who lost homes, vehicles and other assets may now take holiday funds to buy necessities versus the latest electronic, jewelry or other holiday wares,” said Retail Council President and Chief Executive Officer James R. Sherin. “There is real potential for consumers to shift spending to some industry segments like home improvement stores and away from others that heavily rely on holiday sales to keep them in the black.”
The Retail Council, the state’s largest retail trade association, representing stores of all size and variety from national chains to independent Main Street merchants, conducts a Holiday Sales Watch survey each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas to track retail sales and trends.
To kick off the 2012 assessment, the Council conducted this Holiday Season Forecast survey to get a sampling of what members believed the season would hold in store for New York state retailers. The survey was mailed to Retail Council members in mid-September and results were collected through Oct. 26, before the hurricane struck on Oct. 29 and 30.
While optimistic, the majority of respondents still had their eyes on the economy, or as one member put it, “the customer’s confidence in the economy,” as the greatest factor to affect their 2012 holiday sales. This was followed closely by the presidential election and, eerily, weather, as factors that could impinge sales.
“Year after year the Council and our members worry about the crippling effects of a major storm on holiday shopping,” said Sherin. “We typically think of heavy snow fall or a blizzard, but Hurricane Sandy will have far broader and longer lasting consequences for both consumers and businesses in New York State.”
The Council also asked members about inventory and hiring intentions in the forecast survey. Sixty-nine percent of participating merchants said they planned to purchase the same as or more inventory than 2011. A clear majority of participants (79 percent) indicated they would hire the same as or more employees compared to last year to assist them in the upcoming weeks.
“Destroyed shipping ports, mangled rail lines and roads, gas shortages and lack of electricity may prevent or delay the delivery of much-needed holiday inventory,” said Sherin. “Consumers should start early and pick up any must-have gifts when they see them as refilling store shelves may be more challenging for merchants this year.”
“Merchants have made it through the last few years of an unstable economy with caution and strategy. This mentality will continue particularly for downstate retailers as New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley rebuild in the months to come,” Sherin said.
In addition to the forecast survey, the Retail Council polls members three times via telephone between Black Friday and the week after Christmas to gauge retail sales and trends. Visit www.retailcouncilnys.com for the latest updates to the Holiday Sales Watch.