Will the plunge in gas prices boost holiday retail?

Plunging oil's retail effect
Plunging oil's retail effect

Friday marks 75 days until Christmas, or 11 shopping weekends, and retailers are hoping the outlook this holiday season may be even better than originally expected thanks to plunging oil prices.

However, Stacey Widlitz, president of SW Retail Advisors, questions the impact falling gas prices will have on this year's holiday sales.

Gas prices have "historically been a tipping point to help the low-end consumer who is still struggling very much," she said in an interview with CNBC's "Power Lunch." Yet, she pointed to the decline in oil prices since June, which she said haven't shown up in retail earnings.

"JCPenney and Family Dollar were the two most recent mid to low-income retailers to remind us a few percentage points in gas may not be offsetting food inflation and lack of wage growth."

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This week, the National Retail Federation said it expects holiday sales to rise 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion. That's higher than 2013's actual 3.1 percent increase during the same time frame, November and December.

A new report by Deloitte suggests lower gas prices could free up $260 per household this year in the United States.

The potential savings is dramatic enough that May Epner, principal of Mary Epner Retail Analysis, predicts there will be benefactors as a result of falling gas prices.

"A drop in gas prices should be great for Ross Stores, Walmart, and dollar stores (for consumers who must live paycheck to paycheck)," she said. "This also helps low-cost teen retailers, as most teens have a finite amount of money and they will usually opt to put gas in their cars before buying other things."

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Overall, she thinks there could be an increase in sales at brick-and-mortar locations, driven by incentives to get customers to buy online and pick up in stores by offering additional discounts to continue shopping once they arrive.

Some of the most popular items she predicts for this year are Apple's iPhone 6, gift cards, watches, and athletic wear.

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Despite an increase in both online sales and holiday sales hiring at companies such as UPS, Epner thinks a lack of bandwidth in shipping logistics could ultimately help increase brick-and-mortar traffic.

"We're already seeing shipping companies indicate that they may not be able to accommodate orders that are too close to Christmas, which further confirms that, in the U.S., we don't have the infrastructure to support an extraordinarily heavy online holiday season," she said.

"If this holds true, then brick and mortar could have a surge in the last five days before Christmas."