Newsletter: Retailers expect you to splurge a bit more this holiday season


I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, with a look today at holiday spending.

Nothing says the holidays are fast approaching like the annual pre-Halloween prediction from the National Retail Federation about how much consumers are going to plunk down at cash registers over the next couple of months.

And the news is good, economically speaking.

Consumers say they’ll spend an average $1,047.83 this holiday season, up 4% from the $1,007.24 they said they’d be shelling out last year at this time.

The biggest spenders are shoppers aged 35 to 44, who plan to spend an average $1,158.63.

Regardless of your position on the tsunami of materialism that engulfs the world every year, holiday spending is a big deal, with important ramifications for your retirement fund and other investments.


Don’t forget: Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of total U.S. economic activity. When we go shopping, that translates to higher corporate profits and, ideally, more jobs and better pay.

When we tighten our purse strings, the opposite happens. So a prediction of higher holiday spending is welcome — particularly at a time when many economists believe the economy is slowing.

“Consumers are in good financial shape and willing to spend a little more on gifts for the special people in their lives this holiday season,” said Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation.

He noted that retailers are likely to import tons of stuff to fill their shelves before the Trump administration’s next round of tariffs on Chinese goods takes effect Dec. 15.

That means they’ll have lots of inventory. And that often means bargains galore once retailers get a better fix on shopping trends and roll out discounts to keep product moving.

The National Retail Federation predicts total holiday sales will rise as much as 4.2% to about $730 billion.

It says each of us will spend an average $658.55 on gifts for family and friends; $227.26 on food, flowers and other seasonal goodies; and $162.02 on “non-gift purchases,” which basically means stuff for ourselves once the sales kick in.


Most people will do at least some of their holiday shopping online, the federation says.

The big trend this year is next-day delivery. Amazon already does it, which has prompted other big retailers to play along. Best Buy joined the bandwagon last week, announcing it would offer next-day delivery for all but the biggest purchases, such as monster TVs and refrigerators.

But be careful. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning about the danger of “e-skimming.” That’s when hackers place malware in a retailer’s computer system that allows them to snatch people’s credit card numbers.

That’s less of an issue with big, well-established sites such as Amazon and Best Buy, but apparently a growing danger with smaller, newer e-tailers.

The problem for consumers is you can’t tell if a business’ system is compromised. Your best defense is to favor online retailers that already have your card info — ones that you’ve purchased from before — or to use payment services such as Apple Pay and PayPal.

Now then, here are some recent stories that caught my eye:


Out of gas? Persuading people to stop using natural gas is shaping up to be the next act in California’s war on climate change. But early efforts to phase it out are already facing pushback from a powerful homegrown company, The Times found.

Path to the pros: As esports grew from a small niche to a booming market, there was no clear development pipeline for gamers. That’s changing as amateur tournaments and publisher-owned leagues establish a clearer path for those who want to go pro.


Eviction ban: In a 14-0 vote, Los Angeles City approved an emergency eviction moratorium to stop landlords from ousting tenants before new statewide rental rules take effect in January. There was fear property owners would race to boot tenants so they could raise rents before they are capped.

Look out below: What happens if a delivery drone falls on your head? It’s a legitimate liability question that companies must wrestle with as commercial drones take to the skies.


The Facebook police: Facebook has major influence on police in its hometown of Menlo Park, according to Vice, including funding a unit that specifically patrols its campus.

WeWork’s collapse: The Wall Street Journal continues its exceptional WeWork coverage with a close look at the company’s unraveling that’s loaded with wild details, including former CEO Adam Neumann reportedly choosing to fly an underling to the Maldives for a one-on-one briefing about the company’s impending IPO rather than cut short a surfing trip.

Let me know what you think of the newsletter. My email is, or you can find me on Twitter @Davidlaz. Also, tell all your social media pals to join the party.

Until next time, see you in the Business section.