Top Retail Trade Group Upgrades Holiday Forecast

Top retail trade group upgrades holiday forecastWith the final Christmas countdown begun, the nation's largest retail trade group has upgraded its holiday sales forecast, reflecting growing optimism that much more spending is to come.

The National Retail Federation said Thursday it now expects holiday sales for the November and December period to rise 3.8 percent to a record $469.1 billion. That's up from its more modest 2.8 percent forecast made in early October when the economy's health looked more uncertain.

The new forecast is hardly stellar. The projected gain is still below the 5.2 percent pace seen during the holiday 2010 season from the prior year, but it's well above the 2.6 percent average increase over the past 10 years.

And any upgraded forecast is good news as stores look to the final days before Christmas to rope in holiday shoppers.

"Retailers are cautiously optimistic that this season will turn out better than initially expected, bringing added stability to our recovering economy at a time when America needs it most," said Matthew Shay, NRF's president and CEO, in a statement. However, Shay acknowledged a number of factors, including the debt crisis in Europe and continued political wrangling in Washington that could hurt consumer spending for the 2011 season and into next year.

The figures in the NRF report exclude automotive dealers, gas stations and restaurants.

The improved forecast comes two days after the government released what the Washington, D.C.-based trade group called "promising" retail sales gains of 4.5 percent compared with the same year-ago period. That was helped by a strong shopper turnout over the Thanksgiving weekend, the official start to the season.

The trade group also cited that its recent consumer poll shows the average American has completed less of their holiday shopping than in previous years. That shows many shoppers bought more for themselves last month and have plenty of buying to do for their family and friends.

Overall economic growth has been picking up some steam in the final three months of the year, driven by rising business stockpiles and modest increases in hiring. But plenty of challenges remain. The job market is still weak, home values remain depressed, and shoppers face higher prices for basic household costs. That's why consumers continue to adhere to the habits learned from the Great Recession - sticking to necessities and focusing on fat discounts.

"Many shoppers continue to stick to their budgets and buy only what they need," said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz in a statement.

So just as stores plied shoppers with the discounts and expanded hours at the start of the holiday season, they see the need to do the same for the finale, which includes some of the season's top spending days like this Saturday.

Starting this past Wednesday, 260 of Sears, Roebuck and Co. locations will stay open until midnight through Dec. 23.

Meanwhile, many online shoppers are expected to take advantage of the extended and often free shipping offers. According to a survey by the NRF, many merchants have set a later expiration for standard shipping rates for items to arrive by Christmas. This year, 87 percent of stores set a deadline of Tuesday, Dec. 20, or earlier, compared with 64 percent setting deadlines of Dec. 18 or earlier last year.

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I guess someone forgot to tell them of the records returns stores reported from the Black Friday. Not sales if the items are returned.

December 16 2011 at 2:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't get sucked into believing this as yet. Right now, it's typical, seasonal spending. Probably in the article NEXT to the "GOOD" news, you'll see another article announcing LAYOFFS by yet ANOTHER company. And you can bet money (if you have any left) that post Christmas sales will drop off untol April starts ushering in Spring fashions. Remember also, that January always has stores going out of business. I'd LOVE to be more optimistic, but Congress prohibits meaningful solutons.

December 15 2011 at 10:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

after the holidays and people get their credit card bill we will see how hot sales look

December 15 2011 at 10:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jimmy Smith

BS...... We have a small business in our local shopping mall and our business was down 8% in November and just about as much every month since June. I don't know where these idiots get their numbers from but talking to many businesses here the numbers are way down from last year.

December 15 2011 at 9:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm in retail and it has been dead in our store. People that worked there last season are in shock at how dead it truly is.

December 15 2011 at 7:45 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to oceanthyme3's comment

Yep, I am not buying Squat this year.

December 15 2011 at 8:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is the start of the reports that people are purchasing in the stores just to "rope" everyone else into thinking that things are loosening up. After the first of the year the real spending reports will come out and tell how many stores did not make all the money they wanted to during Christmas shopping. It is the same thing every year !!!! A lot of people will use their charge cards for purchases they cannot really afford. When there were more goods being made in the United States and unemployment was not as high--it was actually fun shopping for everyone. Our money stayed in our own comunities and was not sent overseas. Now just about everything is made overseas, our unemployement is high and the foreign made thing do not have the quality made in USA things had. Our family will be all together for Christmas, with a wonderful dinner and lots of fun afterwards. We help each other and give things all year long so Christmas is a day that we get together and enjoy each others company. Special gifts for Christmas ??? How many can you really remember getting from Christmasses past ?? But the joy that a family has together can last forever.

December 15 2011 at 6:47 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

My wife works retail and they haven't achieved thier daily numbers yet. More propaganda from Obama lovers?

December 15 2011 at 6:47 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Another bad forecast,i am willing to bet,that we will be be kind of flat,our debt is staggering,and oba policies are all wrong....we will see som bankrupcies early next year

December 15 2011 at 6:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Lots of folks on here who look at the glass half empty.

December 15 2011 at 6:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to arc23con's comment

Most of the junk is "made in China"

December 15 2011 at 6:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

No, it is 3/4 empty.

December 15 2011 at 8:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

who writes this garbage?

December 15 2011 at 5:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to captmerit's comment

Hp under guidance

December 15 2011 at 6:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply