Top retail trade group upgrades holiday forecast
With 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 announced today it now expects holiday sales for the November and December period to rise 3.8% to a record $469.1 billion. That's up from its more modest 2.8% forecast made in early October, when the economy's health looked more uncertain. Still, the new forecast is hardly stellar. The projected gain is still far below the 5.2% pace seen during the holiday 2010 season from the prior year, yet it's well above the 2.6% average increase over the past 10 years. 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," says NRF President/CEO Matthew Shay in a statement. However, Shay acknowledges a number of factors, including the debt crisis in Europe and continued political wrangling in Washington, 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.
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