Deloitte's forecast comes one week after Challenger, Gray & Christmas said retailers could add 800,000 seasonal workers this holiday for the first time since 1999. The outplacement firm also said holiday spending will "undoubtedly" benefit from payrolls increasing an average of 215,000 new workers each month.
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Separately, management consulting firm Hay Group's annual study found 70 percent of retailers expect sales will be on par with last year, while 24 percent expect an increase of 5 percent or more compared with 2013.
It also follows a series of weekly same-store sales gains reported by the International Council of Shopping Centers, which indicate the back-to-school selling period was strong.
"If we had run this survey in June, I think we would have gotten a different answer," said Craig Rowley, vice president and global practice leader for Hay Group's retail practice.
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That's not to say everyone thinks Christmas will be a home run. Although there are a number of tailwinds that should benefit retailers this holiday—including trimmed down inventories, easy comparisons to the previous year, and positive comments on back-to-school sales during their most recent earnings calls—there are also plenty of reasons to remain cautious, Wells Fargo analyst Paul Lejuez said.
There's a chance that an unseasonably cool summer brought back-to-school shoppers out earlier, pulling sales forward; the potential for the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to steal wallet share; and Gap's early promotions, which could spark a chain reaction.
"It isn't like the mall hasn't been promotional for the past several years, but against the backdrop of inventories being in better shape in general… it is concerning to hear about promotions kicking up further," Lejuez said. "By our account, Gap brand is the second-largest specialty apparel retailer in the U.S. [behind Old Navy], so deeper promotions can have an impact on others."
In its forecast, Hay Group voiced a similar concern surrounding promotions, saying it expects most retailers to begin discounting in September or October, compared with the October to November starts that are typical.
By doing so, they not only have a chance to beat out competitors for shoppers' dollars—they also stand to gain from consumers adding more items to their lists as the months go by.