WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- The National Retail Federation (NRF) on Monday forecasted that holiday sales during November and December will increase between 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent over 2019 despite uncertainty due to COVID-19.
The numbers forecast by NRF exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.
"Given the pandemic, there is uncertainty about consumers' willingness to spend, but with the economy improving most have the ability to spend," NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement.
Kleinhenz said households have strong balance sheets supported by a strong stock market, rising home values and record savings boosted by government stimulus payments issued earlier this year.
"After all they've been through, we think there's going to be a psychological factor that they owe it to themselves and their families to have a better-than-normal holiday," Kleinhenz said, while noting that there are risks to the economy if the virus continues to spread.
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell recently also cautioned that significant downside risks for the economy remain, as widespread vaccination is still months away even in the best case.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing across the United States, with over 1.18 million new cases reported in the last seven days, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The total number of cases in the country surpassed 12 million.
In response to surging infections, governors across the country have reinstated restrictive measures to curb the spread of the virus, casting shadow over economic recovery going forward.
According to the NRF, many households are expected to depend on digital shopping to make many of their holiday purchases, just as they have for much of their everyday spending this year.
Holiday season, traditionally the biggest time of year for retailers, generally refers to the days between Thanksgiving in late November and Christmas in late December. NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.