Report: Disappointing sales through holidays

Sales rose 0.7 percent nationwide in 2 months leading up to Christmas

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It looks like holiday sales will fall desperately short of the robust 5.2 percent increase predicted by Florida retailers.

According to a MasterCard Advisors Spending Pulse report, sales rose a meager 0.7 percent nationwide in the two months leading up to Christmas.

The sluggish sales will have an impact on the state budget, which relies heavily on sales tax dollars to fund the public sector.

Besides the impact the lackluster holiday shopping season will have on the state budget, it could also affect the job market. Many stores use the holiday season to recruit new talent from the seasonal workforce.

Florida Retail Federation foreshadowed turnaround

Sluggish sales will likely mean fewer of those workers will land full-time jobs. After four straight years of slow holiday sales, the Florida Retail Federation foreshadowed a turnaround in 2012.

"We are predicting a healthy increase in sales this year," said Rick McAllister, of the Florida Retail Federation.

The federation expected a 5.2 percent increase, but a new report shows a sluggish 0.7 percent increase in holiday sales nationwide. Florida should do slightly better, according to analysts, but it may not known for months.

Slow holiday season will impact state budget

Rob Weissert, Vice President of Research at Florida TaxWatch, says a slow holiday shopping season will impact the state budget.

"Holiday sales are an important part of retail, and retail is an important part of the state fiscal picture," said Weissert. "Florida relies heavily on sales tax for funding general revenue and the operations of the government."

This means everything, from teachers to the people fighting wildfires, depends on you, the consumer, shopping. About 3/4 of every dollar in the state's general revenue fund comes from sales taxes.

Although the impact of the disappointing holiday shopping season won't be known here at the state capitol for months, it comes amid a predicted $400 million budget surplus.

"There is a predicted budget surplus, but again those predictions tend to change," said Weissert.

State economists will meet again before the 2013 legislative session in March and their estimates, including the holiday shopping figures, will have an impact on what lawmakers decide to fund.

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