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Post-Holiday Sales To Slide: Forecast

1/03/2012 04:06:48 PM Eastern

Charleston, S.C. - A surge in credit-card spending during
the holiday selling season could lead to one of the biggest retail hangovers on
record this month and next.

According to market research firm America's Research Group
(ARG), post-holiday sales are expected to plunge to some of the lowest levels
in years as consumers begin receiving their bills for last month's splurges.

The increase in charge-card usage over the holiday period
follows three years of credit restraint as consumers began reducing household
debt. As a result, "Shoppers will cut back in a very significant way relative
to January and February of the last few years," said ARG chairman Britt Beemer,
which could have a negative impact on the critical Super Bowl TV-selling
period.

Beemer said Black Friday was so huge a draw that a record 44
percent of Americans said they exceeded their spending limit, which is much
higher than the 15 percent and 16 percent levels that preceded major drops in
credit card usage over the last two years.

Beemer also blamed online spending for the spike in credit
card debt, as e-commerce sales, which are almost entirely credit-card driven,
rose from 16 percent to 26 percent.

"Unless consumers see '70 percent off' they will be holding
back in January and in February and possibly into the spring," he said.

That, combined with a record number of consumers who said they
are living paycheck to paycheck, makes this the worst economic picture in ARG
survey history, Beemer said.