Grim outlook for retail sales

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Retailers may not be holly or jolly this holiday season, according to the economic forecast from WSU's Center for Economic Development and Business Research.

Those businesses seem to be listening, Black Friday ads from stores like Harbor Freight were made public last week, the earliest ever for an ad to debut.

"Compared to previous years, it's definitely not going to be as optimistic," said Jeremy Hill, Director of CEDBR. "The overall economy is not expanding. Last year we saw, in recent data, population growth was nearly at zero percent."

His department says the Kansas economy is likely to suffer, due to weak job sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and oil. That translates to less income for households that depend on those industries.

Population growth has also stalled and combined with a natural shift in shopping online - it could spell trouble for big box stores which depend on customers who physically walk through the stores.

Retailers in recent years have responded, introducing bigger branding and earlier hours for Black Friday sales. Hill expects that trend to continue.

"It keeps going earlier and earlier. as a race to the bottom," he said. "This has been a race of trying to beat your competitor for several years."

He does expect an increase in sales from 3rd to 4th quarters this year, though it won't be as dramatic of a jump as last year.

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