Matthew K. Harding,
Levin’s president and CEO.

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ –Retail tenants are feeling bullish as Turkey Day arrives, reports Levin Management in its annual pre-holiday survey of store managers within its 95-property portfolio.

While only 15% of the retailers anticipate peak sales during Black Friday and the Thanksgiving weekend, the large majority expect strong holiday sales through the end of the year:

  • 70% predict sales will be the same or higher this season than last. (That is down from 81% in 2011 who predicted sales equal or better than in 2010.)
  • A strong majority – 68% – said they will be stocking up with the same amount or more inventory than last year.

Among clothing retailers, 91% said they expect to do as well or better this year than in 2011. That is in line with recent surveys of consumer sentiment, such as Booz & Company’s Holiday Retail Outlook 2012, which reported that 42% intend to buy apparel items as gifts.

“It is encouraging that such a large percentage of our survey respondents are projecting strong holiday sales, even though the percentage is lower than last year,” Harding said.

Sales have run about even with 2011 year-to-date, said managers responding to Levin’s October poll of tenant shops in its 12.5-million-square-foot portfolio. The North Plainfield-based real estate services firm manages properties ranging from neighborhood, lifestyle and power centers to enclosed malls, downtown stores and mixed-use projects in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.

Of poll respondents, 54% reported the same or higher sales volume year-to-date compared to last year, said Matthew K. Harding, Levin’s president and CEO. (In the 2011 pre-holiday survey, 56% percent had reported equal or higher sales than in 2010.)

Also this year, 51% of respondents said that store traffic is the same or higher than at this time last year.

“While the sales numbers skew slightly negative from last year, we do not see this change as significant,” said Matthew K. Harding, Levin’s president and CEO. “It is positive that more tenants are seeing the same or higher 2012 sales and traffic than those that are not.”

U.S. Department of Commerce figures for retail and food services sales indicate the same sort of modest progress over the past two years across the country, he noted. In October, national sales dropped slightly from the previous month, but were up 3.8% year-over-year.

He cited other national surveys that buttress the sense of optimism among Levin’s tenant base: Deloitte’s projection that holiday sales will climb 3.5-4 5 over 2011; the National Retail Federation’s forecast of a 4% rise in holiday sales; and the International Council of Shopping Centers prediction of a 3% increase.

The Levin poll was conducted before both the presidential election and Hurricane Sandy. However, the survey asked retailers whether they felt the election results would impact their holiday sales, and 57% said no.

Responses were already being processed when the super-storm devastated coastline areas in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Harding said that he believes only the areas hardest hit by the storm will suffer a decline in holiday sales.

 “However, since the storm impacted so much of the densely populated tri-state region, a reduction in holiday spending in this area may well impact the overall holiday sales numbers,” he said.