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Modest holiday growth forecast

Modest holiday growth forecast

Posted: Monday, September 26, 2011 7:03 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Retailers just got an early Christmas gift: Americans are expected to spend more than they did last year during the holidays.
Retail revenue in November and December is expected to be up 3 percent during what is traditionally the biggest shopping period of the year, according to research firm ShopperTrak said last week.
The sales prediction, which matches the outlook from the International Council of Shopping Centers on Friday, would be below last year’s 4.1 percent spike — and the 5-plus percent gains during boom economic times. But it’s still above the 2.6 percent average gain over the last 10 years and is considered respectable growth given the down economy.
“Clearly, consumers will remain surgical in their spending,” said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak, co-founder. “But the Christmas season should still be quite satisfactory.”
The retail industry still is waiting for a widely-watched holiday forecast on Oct. 6 from the National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group. But the ShopperTrak and ICSC outlooks are the first insight into how consumers, which account for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, might spend during the season. Retailers depend on the season for up to 40 percent of their revenue and are worried that Americans saddled by concerns about their jobs, the stock market and the overall U.S. economy, will cut back on holiday shopping.
So far, consumers still are spending on necessities, as shown during the critical back-to-school spending, the second-biggest shopping period of the year. In August, for instance, many shoppers bought clothes and supplies for their children, which they deem as essentials, giving retailers a boost during the second-busiest shopping season of the year. Shoppers also are being more deliberate about searching for bargains — a buying habit many picked up during the recession. Retailers expect that trend to continue into the holiday shopping season.
“Our customer is more cautious, more value oriented,” said Ron Boire, president and CEO of Brookstone, which sells gadgets in 300 locations nationwide.

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