published Sunday, September 16th, 2012

A positive retail sales outlook

While signals about the U.S. economy remain somewhat mixed, long-term forecasts indicate slow but continued improvement, particularly in the all-important retail sales category, which is an indicator of how willing consumers are to spend. By that measure, the economy should continue to improve.

Retail revenue during the coming holiday season should be strong, though it will not be record-setting, according to a report released Wednesday by from ShopperTrak, a respected research firm. The report predicts retail revenue during November and December will increase by about 3.3 percent this year over last. Retailers should be happy. If predictions prove true, holiday sales increases will follow a strong back-to-school season for most retailers.

There’s another positive indicator for the marketplace. The report suggests that holiday foot traffic will increase following four years of decline. That’s an especially positive finding. More people in stores provides a chance for retailers to turn browsers into paying customers.

There is no assurance, of course, that predicted increases in retail sales will be accurate. Consumers remain wary. They’re apparently willing to increase holiday outlays, but concerned enough about the pace of economic recovery that any anomaly — continued rises in the price of gasoline, for example — could create new reluctance to spend. The consensus, though, is that many U.S. consumers, on the whole, are in a spending mood.

That’s got to be good news for retailers, who often earn the lion’s share of their annual profits in the upcoming holiday sales season.

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