Annual forecast expects increased Ohio holiday retail sales, higher than national projections


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CINCINNATI — Ohio's holiday retail sales are expected to rise even higher than national estimates as job gains and lower gas prices help fuel consumer confidence, according to an economic forecast released Monday.

The University of Cincinnati Economics Center offered its annual projections for the holiday period that kicks into high gear later this week with Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping.

The center expects a 4.5 percent increase in Ohio retail spending for November and December. The National Retail Federation trade group has forecast that retail sales in November and December will rise 4.1 percent above the same period in 2013. The Ohio report projects $14.5 billion in holiday retail spending.

Michael Jones, director of research for the UC center, said consumer confidence levels are at a seven-year high as the economy rebounds, while falling gas prices leave more money in household budgets. The latest statewide gas survey Monday showed the average price for a gallon of regular gas in Ohio was $2.74, compared to $3.25 a year ago.

"Consumers have higher employment numbers, they have increased wages, they're feeling better about the economy, there's lower energy prices," Jones said. "There's a lot of factors that are really driving this increase in holiday sales this season."

The Ohio forecast is done in conjunction with the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants and uses sales data, consumer confidence and other factors in its forecasting model.

The biggest percentage increases in holiday sales are expected in the Columbus and Toledo metropolitan areas, up 6.3 percent each, and the Cincinnati area expected to rise 5.1 percent.

Cleveland area holiday sales are expected to increase 3.9 percent, followed by the Akron area at 1.8 percent and Youngstown at 1.3 percent. The Dayton area is forecast to be down slightly.

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