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How consumer confidence could affect holiday shopping

Shoppers walk between two rows of tents beneath a blue sky against a backdrop of Sable Palms
Moorman photographics
The annual Shopapalooza festival is held the weekend after Thanksgiving at Vinoy Park along the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg

Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, is just days away.

The National Retail Federation expects consumers to spend a record amount this holiday season: between 3% and 4% higher than last November and December, or up to $966 billion.

Still, the Retail Federation notes holiday spending is not growing as fast as it did the past three years. Many residents in the greater Tampa Bay region, and statewide, are feeling the pinch of inflation, the high cost of homeowners insurance and rent, and other financial pressures.

On this episode of Florida Matters, we discuss consumer confidence and the economic challenges facing Floridians as retailers gear up for their busy season.

And, it’s been called the "Super Bowl of shopping." Shopapalooza happens the weekend after Thanksgiving along the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg. It's a place where people can get their in-person shopping fix, and this year there are more than 350 vendors. We talk about what this event means for small businesses, and where it fits into the holiday shopping environment, where big box and online retailers are competing fiercely for people’s attention and dollars.

Joining the conversation are Michael Snipes, economics instructor at the University of South Florida, and Pat Largo with Shopapalooza.

"Inflation is still still an issue in the economy," said Snipes. "You know, most of the time we're aiming for about a 2% inflation rate and we're still well above that."

Still, other economic indicators are positive.

"We do see strong labor markets, we see people who were maybe long-term unemployed, starting to come back into labor markets, they're going to bring income with them," said Snipes.

"And so I do predict I do think that we'll we'll have a strong holiday season definitely one of the strongest in the past couple of years really just kind of the fact that that we're now starting to really kind of get back to normal from the COVID years."

Largo said Shopapalooza offers an alternative to the hype around Black Friday shopping.

"We're not anti big box store. Everyone's got to make their dough, we get that, and we understand everyone serves a purpose," said Largo.

"We know we have our place in that chain. So we definitely catch that Black Friday, getting ready for Christmas holiday, that kind of you know, excitement for shopping."

Shopapalooza runs Sat. Nov. 25 and Sun., Nov. 26 at Vinoy Park, 701 Bayshore Drive NE, downtown St. Petersburg.

I am the host of WUSF’s weekly public affairs show Florida Matters, where I get to indulge my curiosity in people and explore the endlessly fascinating stories that connect this community.
Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.