With the final Christmas countdown begun, the nation's largest retail trade group has upgraded its holiday sales forecast reflecting growing optimism that much more spending is to come.
The National Retail Federation said Thursday that it now expects holiday sales for the November and December period to rise 3.8 percent to a record $469.1 billion.
That's up from its more modest 2.8 percent forecast made in early October when the economy's health looked more uncertain.
The new forecast is hardly stellar. The projected gain is still below the 5.2 percent pace seen during the holiday 2010 season from the prior year, but it's well above the 2.6 percent average increase over the past 10 years.
And any upgraded forecast is good news as stores look to the final days before Christmas to rope in holiday shoppers.
"Retailers are cautiously optimistic that this season will turn out better than initially expected, bringing added stability to our recovering economy at a time when America needs it most," Matthew Shay, NRF's president and CEO, said in a statement. Shay acknowledged that a number of factors, including the debt crisis in Europe and continued political wrangling in Washington, could hurt consumer spending for the 2011 season and into next year.
The trade group also said its recent consumer poll shows the average American has completed less of their holiday shopping than in previous years.
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