Expecting holiday sales dip, retailers encourage Floridians to shop local

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Amid the economic struggles caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Florida retailers are expecting a 5% decrease in holiday sales this year.

“Projections are that sales will be down about 5%,” Florida Retail Federation President Scott Shalley said. “Most of that really is that people are still going to be buying gifts, but they may not be picking up that extra something for themselves.”

The holiday shopping season is the biggest time of the year for stores, which make 20% to 40% of their annual sales during the month before Christmas.

Given fears about the coronavirus, Shalley said he expects more people to shop online this year. He hopes consumers will spend money with stores that also have a physical presence in Florida.

His group is launching a Find it in Florida campaign.

“Whether it’s a big box or a small store, and you decide to shop online, shop online with somebody who has a local presence,” he said. “They are hiring Floridians and paying taxes in Florida. We need it right now. It’s been a difficult year, and we hope to close out the year strong.”

Shalley said one in five jobs in Florida is tied to the retail industry.

An average consumer is expected to spend $998 on gifts this year, about $50 less than last year.

Earlier this week, state lawmakers signaled they are likely to change Florida law that requires internet buyers to voluntarily pay sales taxes. Instead they plan to require out of state retailers to collect the tax.

“They still owe the same tax. We just use the honor system to collect that tax,” Senate President Wilton Simpson said. “And I can assure the honor system doesn’t work very well.”

Retailers say the move is vital to their survival.

“You know, we’ve always felt it critical for our local retailers to have a level playing field, but even more so now it’s critical for the state of Florida,” Shalley said.

The survey by the National Retail Federation found consumers will spend slightly less on gifts, a touch more on decorations, but will cut spending on non-gift purchases by almost 30% this season.