• BOSTON MA NOVEMBER 22: People window shop the closed stores in Downtown Crossing on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22, 2018, in Boston. (Herald Photo by Jim Michaud)

  • Downtown Crossing on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22, 2018, in Boston. (Herald Photo by Jim Michaud)

  • BOSTON MA NOVEMBER 22: Downtown Crossing on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22, 2018, in Boston. (Herald Photo by Jim Michaud)



The calendar delivers a bonus to retailers gearing up for Black Friday and beyond, counting five weekends of holiday shopping at a time when the economy is strong and consumer confidence is running high.

“Economic growth, low unemployment, rising wages and continued low inflation have a lot to do with that consumer confidence,” said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “Consumer debt levels remain low, oil prices are down and … given a very competitive marketplace, consumers will once again enjoy an environment of extensive promotions and value from a multitude of shopping options.”

Hurst also pointed out that Bay State retailers will benefit from “five full weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” because of the early date of Thanksgiving this year.

An estimated 164 million people plan to shop during the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. The group forecasts 34 million people plan to shop on Thanksgiving; 116 million on Black Friday; 67 million on Small Business Saturday; and 75 million on Cyber Monday.

U.S. consumer confidence rose in October to an almost two-decade high, which is part of the reason that many expect a strong showing in sales and shopper turnout.

Massachusetts consumers are expected to spend an average of $656 on holiday shopping, according to personal finance website WalletHub’s outlook. Small businesses and state and local officials are also urging residents and visitors to shop local this holiday.

“Saturday is our next best way to say thank you to small businesses for being great employers and the backbone of our communities and state. Join me in shopping Small Business Saturday,” Jay Ash, the state’s economic development chief, tweeted yesterday.

“Small stores carry unusual gifts you might not find at a chain store, and you are likely to get service with a personal touch. A business owner wants you to be happy because they want return customers,” said Chris Carlozzi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business of Massachusetts, an association that represents small businesses.

“It’s also a way to boost the local economy,” Carlozzi added. “Small business is a powerful economic engine and supporting its success helps keep that engine running.”

Historically, the holiday season represents on average 20 percent of annual retail sales, according to the NRF. The group predicts that holiday retail sales will jump as much as 4.8 percent to reach $720.89 billion in 2018. Last year’s holiday sales jumped 5.3 percent to hit $687.87 billion.

Hurst said major consumer gift purchases this year will include gift cards, clothing and accessories, books, music and movies, consumer electronics, toys, jewelry, home decor and improvement items.