Nielsen sees nearly flat 2009 U.S. holiday sales

SEATTLE, Sept 30 Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:48am EDT

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SEATTLE, Sept 30 (Reuters) - U.S. holiday sales in 2009 will likely be almost flat with the anemic showing of a year ago, a new survey predicted, following in a line of cautious early forecasts for the period.

Overall sales in the holiday shopping season will likely rise only 0.03 percent this year to over $90 billion, according to a survey by data and media firm Nielsen Co.

On the basis of sales by the number of items sold, sales would be flat to down 0.11 percent in the period, the survey showed.

Holiday sales, usually measured in the November-December shopping period, can ring up anywhere between 25 and 40 percent of annual sales for retailers. Last year's holiday sales season was the worst in nearly 40 years by some measures.

Early forecasts for the 2009 holiday shopping season call for sales to be anywhere from up 2 percent to down 1 percent.

Nielsen surveyed more than 22,000 U.S. households in early September for the survey, which has a margin or error of plus or minus 2 percent. (Reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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