COLUMBUS -- Economists expect shoppers to spend about $500 million more over the coming holiday season versus the same time a year ago, with the biggest projected gains in smaller metropolitan areas, like Youngstown and Mansfield, according to a study released Monday.
The University of Cincinnati's Economics Center and the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants are projecting total holiday retail revenues of $22.2 billion for 2016, up from $21.7 billion a year ago.
That's an increase of about 1.5 percent, down from about 4.2 percent forecast for November and December of '15. The state results also are lower than national projections.
Overall retail sales in the state are up about 5 percent for the year, with big year-over-year gains in February and April, according to the study.
"The slight decline in growth rate over last year's holiday sales in Ohio could be the result of national trends shifting consumer preferences away from goods toward entertainment and experiences," Jennifer Shand, a senior research associate at the university's Economics Center and author of this year's study, said in a released statement. "Mobile and online sales continue to grow as well as consumers enjoy the competition for their dollars shown in more price, product and service options."
Among the state's nine major metropolitan areas, Youngstown had the biggest sales jump, with a 6.2 percent sales increase expected (to $776 million from $731 million).
Mansfield was second with 4.9 percent ($220 million this year, compared to $210 million last year).
Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, which account for more than half of the state's total holiday sales, had projected increases ranging from 2.1-3.1 percent.
Economists cited steady employment growth combined with slower growth in incomes and consumer confidence among reasons for the results.
Also, according to the study, "Online sales continue to grow, but retail sales overall comprise a smaller share of Ohio sales and use tax revenues than other industries. Indicators suggest a steady holiday spending season within the state, with slower growth than recent years."