HOLIDAY OUTLOOK

The predictions for this year’s holiday shopping season are upbeat, with several forecasts for an industrywide sales increase between 3.5 percent and 4.5 percent.

The National Retail Federation last week predicted a 3.6 percent to 4 percent sales gain to a range of $678.75 billion to $682 billion. That’s in line with earlier projections from Deloitte, the International Council of Shopping Centers and AlixPartners.

A big unknown is the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma on spending along the Gulf Coast and Florida. Consumers who have to repair or rebuild their homes following the storms may have to limit their holiday shopping. And some heavily damaged stores might not reopen in time for the holidays.

It’s also not known how much the growing trend toward online shopping will hurt business at brick and mortar stores. Forrester, a business research company, forecasts that online holiday sales will be up 12 percent from the 2016 season, reaching $129 billion. Internet shopping has been a big factor in retail bankruptcies and the closing of an estimated 8,600-plus stores this year.

Although online shopping is expected to rise sharply, both United Parcel Service and FedEx have said they’ll hire about the same number of workers as they did last year to handle the crush of holiday packages. The companies are using more automation in their package handling, which may be helping them get their work done without increasing their seasonal hires.

ONLINE LEARNING

Business owners may not realize that some of the decisions they make, while legal, aren’t ethical, and they also many not know how to help their employees work ethically. SCORE, which offers free advice to small businesses, is sponsoring an online seminar on ethics on Thursday, Oct. 12 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. You can learn more and register here: http://bit.ly/2wBJlbh .

SCORE also plans a seminar on creating a business plan. It will be held Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Learn more and register at http://bit.ly/2z249dr .

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: https://apnews.com/search/joyce%20rosenberg