With only 26 traditional shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, the 2019 holiday season is arriving early. So how is the retail season looking?

"Very positive," said Matthew Harding, CEO of Levin Management Corporation, a commercial real estate services firm based in North Plainfield. There has been a steady increase in expectations and sales over the last five years in retailers polled.

According to its findings in the 8th annual Pre-Holiday Retail Sentiment Survey, this year is at an historic high. Harding said nearly 80% of all retailers polled anticipate that sales will either meet or exceed last year's levels.

He said the economy and consumer confidence in spending remain strong and he credits the stock market with helping with the retail spending boost.

Also, Harding said retailers have expanded the holiday shopping season. While traditionally the shopping days are between Thanksgiving and Christmas, he said over the last number of years, retailers have really pushed that window open a bit. They've been pushing sales way before the Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend.

"We see in our survey that nearly 30% of the retailers expect the peak before Thanksgiving and nearly the same amount anticipate it during Black Friday weekend," said Harding.

Technology is also playing an increasingly important role in retail sales, he added. Brick- and-mortar stores are using it more, which has been impacting sales in a positive way. To attract more shoppers, stores are increasing the variety of products and services. A big thing is in-store pickup, which allows customers to order online and pick up at the store.

Retail stores are also texting and emailing coupons. Customers can use their mobile devices in real-time to grab coupons and even do some comparison pricing before checking out.

The International Council of Shopping Centers predict that holiday spending in 2019 will increase nearly 5% and that 90% of shoppers will use retail stores this holiday shopping season.

Online shopping has increased over time but still only counts for 10% of all sales. Harding said its important for stores to have both an online presence as well as physical shop.

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