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NRF Raises Holiday Sales Forecast

WASHINGTON -- As the holiday season gets underway, retailers have reason to be optimistic, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) here, which revised its annual holiday forecast yesterday, following a recent flurry of healthy economic indicators.

The NRF said it now expects total holiday retail sales to increase 6.0 percent over last year, to $439.53 billion. (Retail industry sales measured by NRF include most traditional retail categories, including discounters, department stores, grocery stores, and specialty stores, and exclude sales at automotive dealers, gas stations, and restaurants.) This marks the first time that NRF has ever officially upgraded its forecast during the holiday season. NRF had previously forecast a 5.0 percent sales gain on Sept. 21.

"Recent consumer spending has surpassed our expectations, and we expect this momentum to continue through the holiday season," said NRF president and c.e.o. Tracy Mullin in a statement. "Though our forecast remains cautious, we are confident that the holiday sales increase will be better than we originally anticipated."

In October, retail industry sales rose 7.2 percent year-over-year. Retail industry sales also rose 7.2 percent year-over-year in September. The holiday season is the most important time of year for the retail industry, as companies see one-fifth of retail industry sales (19.9 percent) in the months of November and December.

"As gasoline prices decrease, consumers are finding a little extra padding in their budgets," said NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. "Nearly every retail category has seen strong sales growth in the past few months, indicating that retailers will see positive gains as consumers continue to spend this holiday season."
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