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Retailers to Washington: Spend!  

New York – Retailers, specifically the board of directors of the National Retail Federation, are calling on Congress to stimulate the economy by action to “put dollars back in consumers’ pockets to fuel and sustain economic growth.”

Essentially, the issue boils down to taxes.

The NRF board was not specific about its demand, but Rachelle Bernstein, vp and tax counsel, NRF, told HTT the type of stimulus in question – “there are bipartisan proposals out there” – includes ideas like tax rebate checks, such as were sent to consumers in summer 2001; and a national sales tax holiday, with the federal government reimbursing states for lost sales tax revenue.

“Consumers will be under continued financial stress in 2008 as a result of high energy costs, the fallout from the housing slump, sluggish employment and income growth,” the NRF board said in its unanimous resolution, which called upon “the President and Congress to act quickly and in bipartisan fashion to enact targeted economic stimulus legislation...”

Board members include the leaders of Linens ’n Things, Polo Ralph Lauren, Hudson’s Bay Company, Tractor Supply, Borders, Office Depot, Circuit City and McDonalds.

Yesterday’s NRF board action came after the Commerce Department said that retail sales for December (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) rose 1.7% unadjusted over 2006 and decreased 0.4% seasonally adjusted from November.

Combined November-December holiday sales, the Commerce Dept. said, totaled $469.9 billion, a 3% increase that fell short of NRF’s earlier prediction of a 4% increase. The increase was the lowest since 2002, when holiday sales rose 1.3%.

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