Hope for Holiday Retail Sales

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The National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail association and an expert in sales trends, expects U.S. holiday sales to rise 2.3% this year. In its holiday sales forecast, it estimates total sales for the period will reach $447.1 billion.

The figure is slightly below the ten-year average increase of 2.5%, but above the 0.4% improvement seen last year and the 3.9% decline in 2008. The group defines holiday sales as those made in November and December.

The NRF said retailers are still concerned about consumer spending and employment levels.

Retail profits this holiday season may depend on streamlining supply chains and inventory management. This sort of focus makes it less likely that retailers will be stuck with unsold inventory in early January. Retailers are also counting on new sales channels, like mobile phones, to help lift their 2010 holiday sales numbers.

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The NRF uses complex models that include employment, industrial production, disposable income numbers, and previous monthly store sales.

The improvement of 2.3% will rely heavily on online sales, which have grown faster than brick-and-mortar sales each year over the past decade, according to Comscore. The research firm reported that Amazon.com (AMZN), Walmart (WMT), and Target (TGT) were among the top 50 most-visited websites in August.

The modest holiday increase may not seem like much, but it would be a victory for retailers if they can enjoy their first decent year since 2007.
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