This article is republished with permission from REITCafe.
Although the leaves are just starting to change color and fall from the trees, the first forecasts of 2016 holiday retail spending and hiring came out this week. On Thursday, RetailNext announced its forecast for 3.2 percent growth in overall retail sales. (This number excludes automobiles and gas.) Given the nation’s 4.9 percent unemployment rate, businesses are facing a competitive hiring environment. This has caused some large retailers to already make hiring applications available online. Retailers like Toys “R” Us and Target have announced holiday hiring plans, with the latter planning to hire 70,000 temporary employees for the holidays.
Positive economic indicators support people’s ability to spend during this holiday season: job growth has been strong, wages are rising, and unemployment is low. All of these factors add up to people with paychecks and money to spend for the holidays. Low oil prices mean less money spent on gas and heating, which facilitates greater spending during the holiday season. Low interest rates also support retail expenditures.
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Brick-and-mortar stores will benefit from holiday spending, but robust growth is not expected at those outlets. Target’s goal of 70,000 temporary workers is the same mark it targeted in 2015. The RetailNext forecast included an 11 percent decline in sales at brick-and-mortar stores in November and a 5 percent decline in December.
Instead, warehouses and call centers will be bigger beneficiaries of holiday spending this year. The RetailNext forecast calls for a 14.9 percent growth in online sales. These estimates are in line with recent e-commerce statistics. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, e-commerce sales gained 15.8 percent between the second quarters of 2015 and 2016, and accounted for 8.1 percent of total sales.
Reflecting the growth in e-commerce, hiring in southern California’s Inland Empire is well underway for seasonal warehouse workers at fulfillment centers for the digital arm of companies like Walmart. United Parcel Service is hiring about 95,000 seasonal employees to handle the expected surge in deliveries as e-commerce sales continue to rise. Fulfillment and customer service vendor Radial is hiring 20,000 seasonal workers to help its retail clients meet online holiday shopping demands. Radial operates 26 distribution centers and six call centers in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
E-commerce continues to transform the retail landscape. As the holiday season approaches, most leasing decisions have already been made. Industrial real estate investment trust (REIT) sector returns of 25.18 percent so far this year reflect the push toward e-commerce. The retail REIT sector, with an 11.51 percent year-to-date return, also is performing well. Both sectors could get an even greater boost from solid holiday season sales.
* TREPP-i Survey Loan Spreads levels are based on a survey of balance sheet lenders. For more information, visit Trepp.com.
** – 10 yr. Treasury Yield as of 9/16/2016.