BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Business Report Plus: Economists upbeat heading into holiday season

BY Rhonda Schaffler, Correspondent |
  • Economists offer upbeat forecast about consumer spending during holiday season
  • Compared to last year, online sales during the month of November are up nearly 18 percent
  • Governor-elect Phil Murphy stresses the importance of increasing the minimum wage
  • Billionaire Carl Icahn is seeks assistance in paying for the demolition of Trump Plaza
  • Campbell’s Soup stock has lost more than 20 percent of its value this year

If you are reading this, that means you’ve taken a break from eating, watching football or shopping — but probably not for long. Shopping in particular kicks into high gear, especially on Black Friday.

Heading into the holiday, many economists and other organizations offered upbeat forecasts about consumer spending over the holiday shopping season. That’s a good sign for the economy overall, as consumer spending contributes nearly 70 percent of total economic growth in the U.S. The early indications are that we are eager to spend. An annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics finds that consumers plan to spend an average of $967.13 this year, up 3.4 percent from the prior year.

More of that money is going to online merchants, even before the start of Black Friday. Adobe Analytics reported that online sales for the month of November had jumped nearly 18 percent over the prior year. Online sales have been growing strongly over the past few years, and that’s one reason why some traditional retailers have been struggling.

But on this Black Friday, we found a lot people shopping at the Short Hills Mall. I spoke with Tom McGee, the CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers, about why retail in New Jersey is faring better than other parts of the country.

On Saturday, the retail focus shifts to your local neighborhood. Nov. 25 is Small Business Saturday, which encourages shoppers to spend time and money at their local stores. New Jersey residents are fortunate to live in many towns with “Main Street” shopping areas. Hopefully local merchants will benefit from some of the largess being seen at the malls and online.

There were some other interesting stories making business headlines this week, including the push for a higher minimum wage in New Jersey. Governor-elect Phil Murphy said increasing the minimum wage would be a priority once he takes over in Trenton. Several business groups, including the NJBIA, are raising objections. The NJBIA said it’s been told by its member companies that if wages go up, they will end up raising prices, reducing employee hours and increasing automation.

Another money story this week involved a billionaire looking for financial assistance, proving that anything can happen in Atlantic City. Billionaire Carl Icahn, who owns the long-shuttered Trump Plaza, is asking to use money from a casino tax fund to pay for some of the costs to demolish the property. The demolition will run about $13 million, and Icahn is looking for $5.6 million from what’s known as the Investment Alternative tax fund. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority board said it will consider his request, but hasn’t yet decided whether to approve it.

Big moves on Wall Street this week, as stocks once again shot into record territory, but one New Jersey company suffered this week. Campbell’s Soup, based in Camden, reported disappointing quarterly results. Campbell’s stock has lost more than 20 percent of its value this year.