On an improved macroeconomic backdrop, U.S. retail holiday sales growth this year is expected to top that of last year, putting increased pressure on logistics and parcel delivery companies.

According to financial advisory firm Deloitte’s annual holiday sales forecast, U.S. retail holiday sales are expected to climb 4.0 percent to 4.5 percent year-over-year to between $981 billion and $986 billion, above last year’s holiday season growth of 2.8 percent.

“Income, wage and job growth are positive indicators heading into the holiday season,” said Daniel Bachman, Deloitte’s senior U.S. economist, in a statement. “Debt levels remain at historical lows, and stock market gains coupled with increasing home prices have a wealth effect on consumers, which may encourage increased spending compared with prior years,” he said.

“Although consumers are watching tensions unfold in the Middle East and Ukraine, the improvement in their economic situation should more than offset the foreign conflicts’ impact on consumer confidence and retail sales. Despite recent events in energy-producing areas of the world, gas prices have held steady, which may also sustain consumers’ spending power.”

U.S. imports data support the view of positive business expectations on the upcoming holiday season, according to JOC Economist Mario Moreno.

“After growing by 6.4 percent in the second quarter year-over-year, U.S. containerized imports are expected to grow between 6.5 and 7.5 percent in the third quarter of the year as retailers continue to stock their shelves,” Moreno said. “U.S. containerized imports are en route to reach a new peak volume this year, helped by retailers’ growing confidence on the economy.”

Deloitte also reported that online sales are expected to rise up to 14 percent this holiday season. Digital interactions will influence 50 percent, or $345 billion, of retail stores sales this holiday season, the analyst said.

“While online sales continue to climb, digital customer interactions through both virtual and physical store channels present greater sales opportunities than online or mobile commerce alone,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman and retail and distribution sector leader at Deloitte.

According to Deloitte research, 84 percent of shoppers use digital tools before and during their trip to a store. Additionally, those shoppers convert, or make a purchase, at a 40 percent higher rate than those who do not use such devices during their shopping journey.

Contact Grace M. Lavigne