Forecasters predict weak holiday sales

October 6, 2009 2:52:46 PM PDT
Retailers could be in for a bad case of the holiday blues. Major economic forecasters predict holiday spending will be down again this year.The Grinch may steal holiday sales again, according to the National Retail Federation, which forecasts a 1 percent drop in sales. That's on top of last years nearly 3.5 percent decline. Once again, Americans are expected to watch their budgets.

Consumers are concerned about job security and the falling value of their homes. And experts say recent gains on Wall Street and other hopeful signs of an economic recovery are unlikely to dispel those worries.

"Unless the consumer has security in their financial future, they are going to be less likely to spend," National Retail Federation vice president Scott Krugman said.

Last year, consumers rushed to take advantage of sales. But the momentum didn't last. It was the worst holiday shopping season in nearly 40 years. This year, retailers will offer incentives to boost sales.

Toys R Us is branching out, opening 350 holiday express stores to increase consumer convenience. And Wal-Mart will offer more than 100 toys for$10. That's the kind of deal Melinda Sauvage is looking for.

"I'm a bargain shopper, sales, sales racks, I bargain shop," she said.

But there likely won't be the last-minute discounts consumers saw last year. This time around, retailers are cutting back on inventory, planning ahead for a lackluster holiday season.

Not all forecasts are quite so bleak, however. Other recent surveys show sales remaining flat or even increasing, but only slightly.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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