UPDATE 1-U.S. 2009 holiday sales seen up 1-2 pct - ICSC
* ICSC sees Nov-Dec same-store sales up 1 pct
* Retailers to have first non-recession holiday in 3 yrs
* ICSC sees 2009 US holiday sales better than 2008 (Adds details)
By Nicole Maestri
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 27 (Reuters) - The 2009 U.S. holiday season is likely to be "a lot better" than last year, with sales rising about 1 percent to 2 percent, according to research from the International Council of Shopping Centers.
The forecast, which came in a report posted on the group's website, includes some of the most bullish comments yet on the prospects for the upcoming holiday season.
"One might imagine that it would take a miracle on 34th Street -- and Main Street -- for retailers to have a successful 2009 holiday season," the ICSC stated in its report. "However, that outcome -- even without a miracle -- is not far fetched."
Retailers will experience their first non-recession holiday season in three years, and the "wear and tear" of the recession on the consumer psyche is giving way to renewed hope, optimism and possibly gift buying, the group stated.
In providing its forecast, the ICSC said that holiday sales "in its many forms" -- either same-store sales or total sales -- could rise by about 1 percent to 2 percent.
The ICSC expects same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, for the "traditional" holiday shopping season of November and December to rise 1 percent. Same-store sales for the "new" holiday season of November though January are expected to rise 1.5 percent, it said.
A year ago, the ICSC said same-store sales in November and December fell 5.8 percent, while they dropped 5.4 percent for the November though January time frame.
The weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday, which marks the start of the U.S. holiday shopping rush, is still two months away, but early estimates for holiday sales have been trickling in.
While the forecasts often use different metrics to estimate holiday sales, many of the forecasts have called for sales to be flat to down compared with last year's depressed level, with the possibility of a 1 percent rise at most.
U.S. consumers are struggling amid rising unemployment and a lack of access to credit, while retailers have slashed inventory and lowered prices. For details, see [ID:nN18495115]
But the ICSC said that lean inventories and an improving economy represent "a favorable combination for retailers that 'price right' for this environment."
While it noted its 2009 forecast is not strong, "it is likely to be much better than in 2008 and signal better times ahead for 2010."
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