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NRF predicts healthy holiday

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following subdued growth in the third quarter, retailers have a lot riding on the upcoming holiday season, which accounts for nearly one-quarter (22.83 percent) of annual retail sales, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Total holiday retail sales are projected to increase 4.5 percent over last holiday, bringing holiday spending to $219.9 billion. The NRF defines "holiday retail sales" as sales in November and December for retail stores in the GAFS category: general merchandise stores, clothing and clothing accessories stores, furniture and home furnishings stores, electronics and appliance stores, and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores.

"Although consumer spending has been inconsistent in recent months, we expect the holiday season to bring more stability to the industry," said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. "Home-related merchandise and consumer electronics should do well this holiday season and trendy fashions should help spark clothing sales."

However, retailers face tough sales comparisons over last year's 5.1 percent gain. The holiday 2003 jump was aided by a comparison to the previous year's anemic 1.2 percent sales increase.

Wells said economic factors affecting holiday sales this year will include higher energy costs, rising interest rates, geopolitical threats and slow income growth.

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