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Holiday Sales To Grow 4.1%: NRF

Washington – The National Retail Federation (NRF) is forecasting a 4.1 percent increase in retail sales this holiday season, to $586.1 billion.

The projection exceeds the 10-year average increase of 3.5 percent, but is down from last year’s 5.6 percent seasonal gain.

Fueling the forecast is an anticipated 12 percent increase in online sales, for a total holiday take of nearly $96 billion, according to NRF’s Shop.Org division.

NRF defines holiday sales as total retail sales, excluding restaurants, car dealers and gas stations, during November and December.

“This is the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession,” said Matthew Shay, president of the retail trade association. “In spite of the uncertainties that exist in our economy and among consumers, we believe we’ll see solid holiday sales growth this year.”

Variables, he said, include the upcoming presidential election, confusion surrounding the “fiscal cliff,” and concern relating to future economic growth, which could all combine to affect consumers’ spending plans. “But overall we are optimistic that retailers’ promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers,” he noted.

Despite recent government data pointing to slow job and income growth, positive indicators are emerging such as increases in confidence and home prices that show “a cautious but capable consumer,” NRF said.

“There’s still some general anxiety among consumers when it comes to how the state of the economy is impacting their spending plans, but retailers can expect to see excitement around their promotions and plenty of bargain hunters both online and in stores in the coming months,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz, Ph.D. 

 Shay added that online retail has been “a bright spot for years and we don’t expect that trend to change anytime soon, especially with the growth in mobile … In addition to enhancing the site experience, retailers have spent the year investing in optimizing their mobile and social platforms, just what holiday shoppers are looking for.”

NRF expects retailers to hire between 585,000 and 625,000 seasonal workers this quarter, which is on par with the 607,500 temporary staffers brought on for the holidays in 2011.