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Reports: Floridians to travel more for Thanksgiving, spend more on Christmas this year


By John Haughey | The Center Square

The estimated 2.6 million Floridians who will travel on state roadways over bridges and through woods to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family will pay, on average, 5 to 10 cents per gallon more for gas than they did last week, according to AAA.

“Even if gas prices do rise this week, a 5-10 cent increase is not likely to cause Floridians to cancel their travel plans,” AAA and Auto Club Group spokesman Mark Jenkins said in a Monday news release. “If the state average returns to $2.45 per gallon, it’d be the same price motorists paid during last year’s holiday.”

Jenkins noted the projected average of $2.45 per gallon is “nearly the same price Floridians paid a month ago – when most people were finalizing their travel plans. However, if the state average remains less than $2.45, Thanksgiving travelers in Florida would be paying the lowest gas prices for the holiday in three years.”

The uptick in gas prices is also not expected to dissuade Floridians from hitting the stores the day after Thanksgiving when “Black Friday” officially launches the Christmas shopping season, according to the Florida Retail Federation.

The retail federation projects expected Christmas season sales in the Sunshine State to grow by 4 percent over 2018, with consumers spending an average of $1,047.83 this holiday season.

The breakdown of that forecast $1,047.83 average includes $658.55 in gifts, $227.26 on holiday items such as candy and decorations and $162.02 “on non-gift purchases that take advantage of deals and promotions.”

“Strong sales during the holiday season are fundamental to a successful year for Florida retailers,” Florida Retail Federation President/CEO Scott Shalley said. “With one in five jobs in Florida tied to this industry, this positive forecast is fantastic news for Florida families. Florida retailers are already stocked up and staffed to support the demands for this holiday season.”

The retail federation fixes total estimated spending nationwide at $730 billion, a $29 billion increase that will nearly double 2018’s spending increase.

Last year’s 2.1 percent increase in holiday shopping over 2017 was the lowest year-to-year gain in a decade, a relatively sluggish season the retail federation attributed to the federal government shutdown, stock market volatility and the imposition of tariffs.

This year, the retail federation maintains, economic indicators that include low unemployment, higher wages and swelling consumer confidence as justification for its optimist projections.

Another trend noted by the Florida Retail Federation is “online Thanksgiving Day shopping,” which it states is “growing especially fast.”

Citing a prediction by Adobe Analytics, the retail federation estimates that 19.5 percent more people will shop online this year than in 2018, spending an estimated $4.4 billion.

More than half of shoppers – 58 percent – say they plan to shop on Thanksgiving, up from 45 percent in 2018, according to a survey from marketing intelligence firm MiQ’s 2019 Holiday Shopping report cited by the retail federation.

The online Thanksgiving shopping trend may become even more appealing if “international developments” continue to edge gas prices up, although even with a 5-10 cent average increase, gas prices are likely to stay relatively stable in Florida through year’s end, AAA said.

The average gallon of gas in Florida was $2.36 on Sunday, a half-cent less than the start of the week before, 6 cents less than October and 7 cents less than this time last year, AAA said, adding the national average was $2.59 a gallon on Sunday.

That is, the association warns, if “international developments” do not take a turn for the worse.

“Last week, wholesale gasoline prices rose alongside crude oil, in response to reports that Russia would cooperate with OPEC’s efforts to balance global crude supply and demand,” AAA said. “Crude prices ping-ponged last week, but ultimately finished flat. Gasoline futures, on the other hand, finished the week 5 cents higher than where they started on Monday. Despite the upward pressure, market fundamentals could easily change course early this week, allowing pump prices to hold steady through the holiday.”


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