By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
November 20, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CSN) -- Holiday sales in Florida are expected to rise close to 3.5 percent this Christmas season. Retailers say record-high tourism and record-low unemployment is playing a big part.
The growth is slightly below the four percent growth expected nationally.
"Florida usually follows the national predictions pretty closely, or even exceeds them," said James Miller of the Florida Retail Federation. "But, due to Hurricane Irma that hit southwest Florida, southeast Florida and the Jacksonville area - near three really large population centers - it's going to impact those people's ability to spend money this year."
Despite post-Irma economic hardships, Floridians are still expected to spend, on average, a record $967 million on holiday shopping this year.
A major contributing factor for increased spending is the state's unemployment rate, which is the lowest it has been in a decade.
Some local shoppers say their Christmas budgets are still lean, but Floridians aren't the only ones driving the increased spending.
The holidays are the peak time for tourism in South Florida. State efforts to boost tourism after Hurricane Irma are helping, says the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
The state saw record numbers of visitors for the third quarter in a row.
"You know, 100 to 120 million shoppers come in each year, all of whom are leaving with more than what they came with, is a great thing," Miller said.
Governor Rick Scott announced Monday a record 88.2 million tourists visited the state in the first nine months of 2017.