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Holiday Sales Up 3.4%: Forecast

New York — Holiday sales are expected to rise 3.4 percent year over year, according to a new retail report.

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), a trade group, said its November to December forecast is up slightly from the 2012 holiday season, even though retailers are anticipating more modest sales.

But despite retailer’s mixed outlook, and the economy’s “mini-cycle slowdown” over the last three quarters, this year’s holiday sales environment is looking up, ICSC said.

“We’re going to see a more subdued spending mood from consumers, but what counts is that we’re on track to have a better holiday sales season that last year,” said Michael Niemira, the group’s research VP and chief economist. “With leaner inventories, retailers can expect their prices and margins to remain stable, which is another good indicator of stronger sales,” he said.

Along with reduced price discounting, ICSC is also projecting a 13 percent increase in online and other direct sales this holiday season.

Additionally, holiday hiring, which is highly correlated with holiday spending and can also forecast a stronger sales performance, is set to grow 0.5 percent from last year, ICSC said.

The group’s 3.4 percent forecast comes in right between two previous sales projections. Earlier this month ShopperTrak projected a 2 percent increase in holiday sales for November and December, while Deloitte forecasted a gain of as much as 4.5 percent for the November to January period.