September 30, 2009 / 2:54 PM / 10 years ago

Nielsen sees nearly flat 2009 U.S. holiday sales

Last minute holiday shoppers pass a sign at a retail store that reads "Believe" in San Francisco, California December 24, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

SEATTLE (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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