Research firm predicts holiday gain for '04

Charleston, SC — America's Research Group founder Britt Beemer is projecting that holiday sales this year will post a 4.8 percent gain over 2003 as consumers spend more per usual on individual gifts and buy more gifts than they did previously.

"With no hot 'must-have' gift item this year, consumers will pay more attention to retailer advertising, and they are giving more Christmas ornaments as gifts," Beemer wrote in the holiday report, which was released today.

Consumers also are moving toward heavier shopping from the first of December up until the weekend before Christmas. With the holiday falling on a Thursday, Christmas week will become a vacation week. "So retailers should not plan on the weekend before Christmas to save them," said the report. Further, the number of consumers planning to shop on the Friday after Thanksgiving is at its lowest point since 1997. Consumers said they were turned off by the crowds and are holding back for "the real deals" to appear in stores.

In a piece of good news for the home furnishings industry, Beemer reports that the number of Americans planning to entertain this year is at a 10-year high. Other hot trends for holiday 2004: gift certificates/gift cards, consumer interest in 50 percent off promotions, affinity credit card programs, eBay and Internet shopping.

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