It’s tough to square low consumer sentiment about the economy versus how shoppers are spending this holiday season.

Consumers are saying one thing and doing another.

The University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment declined in November to its lowest level in a decade, but spending data is a more relevant measure of consumer behavior, said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF’s chief economist.

Richard Curtin, the Michigan survey’s chief economist, chalked the spending up to consumers’ strong desire to resume more normal holiday gatherings with family and friends. And, he said, consumers are using their savings to do it despite higher prices. That makes for interesting times ahead in 2022.

Short-term forecast is sunny

The holiday season is looking good on the final stretch to Christmas. How good? The National Retail Federation has upped its forecast, something it rarely does.

The industry group expects combined November and December sales to increase 11.5% from its prior forecast of between 8.5% and 10.5%. That compares with a five-year average increase of 4.4%.

Best-stocked shelves

A walk through stores in the Dallas area two weeks before Christmas showed that there’s merchandise in stock, and as far as department stores go, Dillard’s has the most plentiful racks and shelves.

We’re calling it the best-stocked department store of pandemic holiday shopping season 2.0.

While Dillard’s faces the same pressures that department stores are feeling, it’s bringing in younger shoppers and knows its customers well.

It doesn’t shaft men, giving guys as much floor spaces as women. And many of its jewelry departments have separate sections for two big fashion jewelry brands that hail from Texas, Kendra Scott and James Avery. The majority of its 250 stores and 30 clearance centers are across the South, including 56 stores in Texas.

Dillard’s headed into the holiday season with momentum. Its third-quarter retail sales were up 47% over a year ago and up 9% from 2019. Third-quarter profit soared to $197.3 million.

Two weeks ago, sitting on $620 million in cash and only $366 million in long-term debt, the Little Rock-based chain felt confident enough to announce a special dividend to shareholders of $15 a share.

It is the last minute

Christmas lands on a Saturday this year, so there’s no last-minute weekend day to swoop in on your errands and get them done. There are just two weekends left.

And finally, it’s time to be mindful of shipping deadlines.

Fox Hoferer, 3, talks with Santa about dinosaurs and his wish list at Santaland in Galleria Dallas.

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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