NRF: Holiday sales to rise 2.3%

Holiday retail sales will climb 2.3%, as customers are lured by sales and retailer promotions, according to the National Retail Federation. The rise is slightly lower than the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 2.5%, the group noted, but is a marked improvement from last year’s 0.4% uptick and the dismal 3.9% holiday sales decline retailers experienced in 2008.

The increase in retail sales to $447.1 billion in November and December will be the biggest since a 3.1% gain in 2006, the group said.

As they have in previous years, retailers are expected to focus on supply chain efficiencies and inventory control this holiday season to limit their exposure to excess merchandise and unplanned markdowns, the NRF said. Companies are also expected to leverage new channels -- like mobile -- to drive sales and provide added service to customers who want to shop anytime, anywhere.

“While consumers have shown they are once again willing to spend on what’s important to them, they will still be very conscientious about price,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz, Ph.D. “Retailers are expected to compensate for this fundamental shift in shopper mentality by offering significant promotions throughout the holiday season and emphasizing value throughout their marketing efforts.”

The NRF uses the Commerce Department’s retail sales figures excluding auto, gasoline and restaurant sales.