Forecast: Expect Holiday Ho-Hos To Be Only So-So

'Tis the season to read holiday tea leaves, and three just-released forecasts predict that consumer spending will be lukewarm, at best. At the low end, the International Council of Shopping Centers is looking for a 2.2% rise. And while the trade group points out that there are many components to such a forecast, the overall trend is tepid. "No matter which metric of performance is used, ICSC projects 2011 U.S. holiday sales are likely to advance at a slower pace than in 2010 as strong economic headwinds continue to persist," says Michael P. Niemira, ICSC's chief economist, in its release. "The 2011 holiday season forecast also envisions a pace of sales considerably slower than during the first half of 2011 since retail sales generally advanced at a faster pace in early 2011 than during the 2010 holiday season." It predicts a gain of 2.7% in apparel and 1.2% in electronics; overall, it anticipates higher-end stores to fare better than moderate or lower-priced stores.

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