After a tumultuous first half of the year and unremarkable back-to-school results, U.S. retailers have emerged with an optimistic outlook for the upcoming holiday season. According to a recent BDO USA survey (, chief marketing officers (CMOs) at leading U.S. retailers forecast a solid 4.1%increase in overall holiday store sales.

This year’s projection falls directly in line with the National Retail Federation’s 4.1% expected increase in holiday sales, and is a full percentage point higher than actual retail sales gains in the 2013 season. Overall, a majority (65%) of retailers believe sales will increase this year, with only 12% expecting a sales decrease. The increased optimism in growth likely points to ongoing improvements in the broader economy: housing markets are recovering, the employment picture is slowly rebounding and consumer confidence is rising, though still volatile.

Amidst ongoing hype around the latest iPhone release, smart watches and a slew of other new tech devices, retail CMOs once again anticipate that consumer electronics will be both the top performing (73%) and most discounted (58%) category this holiday season. The Consumer Electronics Association predicts that Americans will spend a record US$34 billion on electronics alone this season, with tablets, laptops, televisions, smartphones and videogame consoles rounding out the list of the top gadgets on adults’ wish lists.

Meanwhile, apparel (13%) hangs on as the second highest performing segment, according to retail CMOs, and department stores are doubling down on their seasonal hiring in anticipation: Macy’s announced plans to add 86,000 workers this season, while Kohl’s expects to hire 67,000.