September 12, 2012 / 4:03 AM / 5 years ago

Holiday retail sales seen up 3.3 percent: ShopperTrak

A woman walks past an Aeropostale store in Times Square in New York, July 27, 2012.Andrew Burton

(Reuters) - U.S. retail sales should rise 3.3 percent this holiday season, on what is expected to be the first increase in shopper traffic since 2007, according to a forecast from research firm ShopperTrak released on Wednesday.

ShopperTrak, a data firm that makes sales projections based on shopper visits to more than 50,000 retail locations around the United States, expects foot traffic to increase 2.8 percent during the peak holiday shopping months of November and December.

The holiday season can make or break a company's annual results, accounting for one-third of annual sales in many cases.

Monthly retail sales have been up versus a year ago for the last 34 of 35 months, as consumers gain confidence in the U.S. economy's slow but fitful recovery.

Traffic trends have been improving since the U.S. Presidents' Day holiday in February, ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said.

In recent years, shoppers had been going to stores with lists of what they intended to buy and did not spend a lot of time browsing stores.

That behavior seems to be changing, Martin said.

This year, shoppers are "a little more relaxed about walking around and seeing what's available in stores" and that presents opportunities to ring up additional sales, he said.

Reporting By Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Ediitng by Steve Orlofsky

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