Holiday sales to rise at slower pace this year: NRF

Sales forecasts are presenting an unusually consistent picture of the holiday season. But the trouble is, it’s nothing to brag about.

The National Retail Federation on Thursday said it expects holiday sales to increase 3.7 percent this year, in line with several other industry forecasts calling for low- to mid-single-digit growth.

The trade organization predicted sales in November and December will reach $630.7 billion, rising at a rate that’s “significantly higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent.”

Still, that pace would fall short of last year’s results, when sales rose 4.1 percent.

The NRF also said it expects online sales to rise between 6 and 8 percent, to as much as $105 billion. That’s in line with last year’s performance, when the group said nonstore sales grew 6.8 percent.

“Similar to last year in the sense we’re coming off a rather disappointing first half, this holiday season brings to light several crosscurrents that still exist for American households,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a press release.

“While confidence data is encouraging, slower job growth in 2015, deflationary retail prices and the mix of consumer spending somewhat shifting toward big-ticket items and services, as well as the wild card in our government spending debates, will all contribute to the slower growth rate of sales expected for the holiday season.”

In July, the National Retail Federation lowered its annual sales forecast to 3.5 percent growth from 4.1 percent, citing unexpected slowness in the first half. At the time, the trade group said it expected sales to grow at a more positive pace of 3.7 percent over the next five months.

NRF’s holiday sales forecast considers economic indicators including consumer credit, disposable personal income and previous monthly retail sales releases. It excludes autos, gas and restaurant sales.

Among other industry forecasts for this holiday season, ShopperTrak is calling for 2.4 percent growth; AlixPartners predicts sales will rise between 2.8 and 3.4 percent; and Deloitte is predicting a gain of between 3.5 and 4 percent.

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