November 19, 2010 in Business

Merrier outlook for holiday retail sales

But shoppers remain frugal, analyst says
Sandra M. Jones Chicago Tribune
 

CHICAGO – A flood of early promotions and longer store hours have spurred a key retail group to raise its forecast for holiday sales.

ShopperTrak predicts sales for the November-December holiday period will increase 3.2 percent from last year, a bigger gain than the 2.9 percent the Chicago-based market research group initially anticipated. Foot traffic is forecast to rise 1 percent for the period, instead of the originally forecast 0.1 percent decline.

Retailers have been pushing Black Friday-style promotions for weeks before the official start of the holiday shopping season the day after Thanksgiving. The deals have driven shoppers to the malls and retail outlets, said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak.

The American shopper has become more frugal and “deal-sensitive,” he said. Consumers are making few shopping trips but spending more on each visit, arranging their shopping visits around the most appealing deals and promotions, he said. Likewise, ShopperTrak data shows foot traffic at outlet stores is outpacing that at traditional malls.

Still, Martin cautions that the rosier outlook doesn’t mean consumers are spending like they did before the recession.

“Despite various economic pressures, consumers have remained resilient and found a way to spend throughout 2010, although not at the level retailers experienced prior to the depths of the recession,” said Martin. “Although we are predicting a nearly 3 percent sales rise this season, any small increase has to be seen as relative at this point.”

During the holiday 2009 shopping season, retail sales fell 0.4 percent.


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