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Tax Refund Season Could Jump Retail Sales

It looks like two-thirds of U.S. consumers will get an income-tax refund this year, and almost half of them will spend it on goods and services, according to survey results out this week from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

Of a list of possible options in the survey, 5 percent of those expecting a refund said they planned to spend it on clothes and shoes. Another 13 percent said the money was primarily earmarked for home improvements, home goods, furniture or a large appliance. An additional 4 percent plan to buy electronics with the windfall cash.

Aside from physical products, 11 percent of consumers getting money back expect it to go to eating out at restaurants or entertainment such as movies, plays and concerts.

But like the recent windfall from lower fuel prices, not all of the tax-refund money will go to retailers. According to the survey, 20 percent of refund-receiving consumers will save or invest the money, and 17 percent said they expect to use it to pay down debt.

The breakdown of who will spend and who will save isn’t especially surprising: 51 percent of millennials — those between the ages of 18 and 34 — who are getting a refund this year indicated they’ll spend the extra money, while only 43 percent of Americans over age 35 said they’ll opt for spending.

More men than women said they’ll save the money (30 percent of men, 24 percent of women), according to the results ICSC reported. But by income level, all groups were equally likely to spend their refund instead of saving it.

That’s something that U.S. retailers are undoubtedly looking forward to. According to a recent report from RetailNext, foot traffic at retail stores is down an average of 8.3 percent nationwide from last year, and average retail sales were down year-over-year by 7.7 percent in January, 10.4 percent in February and 3 percent in March.

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