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New holiday forecasts signal subdued season

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Retail groups are predicting a quiet holiday season, with smaller gains than in 2010, as consumers struggle with prolonged economic worries.

The International Council of Shopping Centers on Wednesday forecast that U.S. holiday sales would post a moderate gain, with sales expected to increase 2.2% during the November-December combined period compared with the same time frame a year earlier. The group said retail momentum lately had been good but that there were economic roadblocks ahead that could dampen sales.

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Last month, the group’s chief economist predicted that sales during that period would be up 3.5%. In 2010, holiday sales rose 5% year over year in what was the best Christmas season since the recession.

Also on Wednesday, retail group ShopperTrak said it expected holiday retail sales to rise 3% and foot traffic to decrease 2.2% year over year, signaling that consumers will limit their shopping trips.

ShopperTrak said it expected foot traffic to continue decreasing through the end of the year because of high unemployment and gas prices. So far this year, shoppers have visited an average of 3.1 stores per shopping trip, down from 3.19 in 2010. ‘Converting fewer numbers of shoppers to buyers has never been more important for retailers,’ the group said.

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-- Andrea Chang


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