The NRF’s rose-colored glasses

RetailWire panelists are usually careful to leave their political views out of the daily discussions, but the current government shutdown (in day eight at this writing) is a hot topic. The context for the discussion is the National Retail Federation’s forecast for a 3.9% increase in holiday sales compared to 2012. Even in an era of “business as usual,” that seems like a blue-sky number to me:

I’m cautiously optimistic that the government shutdown and debt limit fights will be resolved in the next couple of weeks, perhaps in the context of agreements about spending levels, the “medical device” tax, and so forth. So I don’t see this dragging down retail spending — however, if I’m wrong, there will be far bigger problems driven by furloughed employees, falling equity prices, and so forth.

The real question is why the NRF is projecting a 3.9% increase in the first place. This organization tends to over-forecast holiday sales every year, and all signs point to the sort of modest (2-3%) gains that we have been seeing all year.

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