Shoppers hunt for bargains on Black Friday, Nov. 25, 2016,...

Shoppers hunt for bargains on Black Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, at Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Long Island-based economic and retail experts say they expect a vibrant holiday shopping season, which kicks into high gear on Thanksgiving Day.

“We have a higher level of discretionary spending power,” said Marshal Cohen, retail analyst with the NPD Group, a Port Washington-based market research company. “We have more retail at our fingertips.”

Cohen said he expected holiday sales to grow nationally by about 2.5 percent to 3 percent, while on Long Island he projected sales to grow between 3.5 percent and 4 percent.

The stronger-than-average regional economy bodes well for retailers here, added John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group.

“Confidence is high, we have a low unemployment rate, and home prices are up,” Rizzo said. “These are all sources of confidence and wealth.”

Nationwide, about 164 million Americans could hit the stores or go online from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, according to a National Retail Federation survey. Nearly 33 million said they may shop on Thanksgiving Day, according to the federation.

Many retailers, including Best Buy, Target, Toys R Us and Macy’s, will be open for at least part of Thanksgiving Day.

The federation said consumers expect to spend an average of $967.13 during the holiday season, up 3.4 percent from last year.

Black Friday will remain the busiest day with 115 million planning to shop online or in stores. Another 71 million said they will shop Saturday. Cyber Monday could have about 78 million shoppers, the federation found.

The number of online shoppers has surpassed brick-and-mortar shoppers on the first weekend of the holiday season. According to an NRF report for last year, 108.5 million Americans shopped online, compared with 99.1 million who hit the stores. In 2015, the split was close to even.

Of those consumers who said they expect to go shopping this year, 66 percent said they are doing so to take advantage of deals and promotions retailers will offer, while 26 percent cited the tradition of shopping over Thanksgiving weekend and 23 percent said it’s “something to do” over the weekend.

According to the survey, 56 percent of Americans already have started their holiday shopping, but most still have a long way to go. Only 12 percent of consumers have completed at least half of their shopping, while only 2 percent have finished all of their holiday shopping.

As for local stores, Rizzo said they will be challenged by internet retailers, which are running aggressive sales throughout Thanksgiving weekend. “The internet is taking off, and that could have an impact on area businesses,” he said.

That challenge will be here for years to come, said Ana Serafin Smith, senior director of media relations at the National Retail Federation.

“Online shopping is a trend and it’s here to stay,” she said. “But we also don’t see brick and mortar going anywhere either.”

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