Strong holiday retail sales expected in Youngstown area

NILES, Ohio (WYTV/AP) – Researchers are expecting a 1.54 percent increase in Ohio holiday retail spending, with Black Friday and other seasonal sales coming up.

The annual forecast from the University of Cincinnati Economics Center indicates slower growth, just a 1.54 percent increase, than in recent years when projections were 4 percent or more for the state.

People aren’t spending as much and it has had an impact on local businesses.

“One of the things about the American shopping mall is that it [has] changed rapidly,” said Joe Bell, spokesperson for the Eastwood Mall.

Bell says shopping centers like Eastwood have had to adjust their tactics to meet people’s changing needs in order to keep spending up.

The study says sales outlooks are stronger in some areas, specifically in Youngstown, where spending is expected to be up 6 percent. Bell attributes that, in part, to the election.

“For better or worse, people kind of have it fixed in their minds, ‘Okay, this is the way it’s going to be,’ and that makes them more comfortable to make retail purchases,” he said.

The study also says consumers have shifted their spending habits for more extravagant gifts, like travel and entertainment, rather than store-bought goods. Still, Bell isn’t worried.

“There’s always going to be a need for people to taste, to touch, to try on, and then there’s the whole experience of shopping,” he said.

While Youngstown is expected to spend about 6 percent, that increase is more than Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron and Dayton combined.

Total retail spending growth of $500 million is expected in the state.

The forecast in conjunction with the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants uses sales data, employment and wage figures, consumer confidence and a variety of other economic indicators to project spending for the November-December period.