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Predicting Increased Holiday Sales, Florida Retail Federation Wishes for Online Tax Deal for Christmas

November 14, 2012 - 6:00pm

Predicting Sunshine State consumers will spend more than 5 percent this holiday shopping season than a year ago, the head of the Florida Retail Federation continues to hope that deals can be struck by lawmakers that create an even online-sales-tax-collection playing field for the states merchants.

Noting that many large, out-of-state retailers dont have to charge Florida sales tax for online purchases, federation president and CEO Rick McAllister said the loophole puts Florida companies at a selling disadvantage.

Its not just here in the brick and mortar that stores are at a disadvantage, its online as well. Weve got to get those folks collecting taxes that are due, said McAllister Thursday, during a media conference at Governor's Square Mall in Tallahassee about the upcoming holiday season.

Its not a new tax, its a collection of a tax.

A study conducted a year ago by an alliance that included the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, claimed out-of-state, online-only retailers cost the state roughly $450 million a year by not having to collect and pay the Florida government for sales taxes on online purchases.

Legislators have been reluctant to tackle the issue the past couple of sessions because it could be seen by consumers as a new tax when making an online purchase.

A couple of federal bills continue to hang around that could alter the e-commerce world.

The Marketplace Fairness Act, introduced a year ago, would give states that join the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement the authority to require Web and catalog retailers to collect sales tax on in-state orders.

The Marketplace Equity Act is a more blanket approach to give any state the power to require sales tax collections on all online sales made within the states.

Meanwhile, for Florida shoppers, the unofficial start of the holiday season -- which is already in place at some retailers -- known as Black Friday will begin Thanksgiving.

Tony Fischler, general manager of Sears in Governors Square, said his store will join others in the national chain by opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Last year we went back to our customers and asked, What can we do to better serve you?' Fischler said.

They wanted longer Black Friday shopping hours and they wanted great deals.

Last year the chain began its Black Friday at 4 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Overall, the federation predicts that holiday sales will increase from $55 billion in 2011 to $58 billion this year.

The season should be helped by having Christmas land on a Tuesday, pumping up a final weekend for retailers, McAllister said.

Florida Retail Federations 12 trends for the 2012 holiday season in Florida:

1. The economy continues to grow, and total holiday sales projections bring good tidings. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the American economy is growing faster than expected, with increases in the gross domestic product partly characterized by an uptick in personal consumption. Florida will see a 5.2 percent jump in holiday spending, from $55 billion in 2011 to $58 billion this year.

2. E-commerce is at an all-time high. Online shopping continues to grow, and e-commerce sales are expected to be about 15 percent higher than last year.
About 5 percent of all retail sales are now online, so Florida shoppers will be spending at least $2.9 billion on holiday shopping online this year (5 percent of $58 billion).

3. Individual consumer spending has risen. Across the U.S., the average consumer is expected to spend about $750on holiday gifts and seasonal merchandise this season, compared to $740.57 in 2011.

4. Holiday shopping sparks a season of job growth. Job seekers can expect plenty of seasonal opportunities as Florida retailers expect to hire 42,000 people this holiday season, which is a significant increase over last year.

5. Hot holiday items will appear on most wish lists as the top consumer gifts. Many shoppers will be looking to buy gift cards, electronics, clothing, housewares and toys this year.

6. Shoppers wont feel so guilty buying for themselves. Pent-up demand will drive shoppers to spend extra money on discretionary items and self-gifts. Six in 10 holiday shoppers are planning to spend $139.92 on themselves.

7. Consumer confidence reflects economic cheer. The University of Florida recently released a survey showing consumer confidence in Florida remains at a five-year, post-recession high.

8. Holiday shopping has a merry impact on retailers. The holiday season can account for anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent of a retailers annual sales.

9. Most consumers have already begun their shopping. November accounts for 39 percent of holiday sales, while the first two weeks of December hold 16.2 percent of sales. Last-minute shoppers make up 3.5 percent of sales.

10. There will be more days to shop. With Thanksgiving coming earlier this year, consumers can enjoy a longer holiday shopping season with 32 days to spend before Christmas Day.

11. Dec. 24 is the busiest shopping day of the year. Despite the dispersion of sales over the holiday season, Christmas Eve remains the busiest shopping day of the year. With it falling on a Monday, retailers will see a greater flurry of sales during the three-day weekend before Christmas.

12. Consumers will shop for holiday deals using technology. According to the National Retail Federation, more than half (51.8 percent) of consumers will shop online this holiday season. Retailers are launching smart phone apps and using social media to guide shoppers to their deals.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (772) 215-9889.

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