Retailers gear up for holiday season rush

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 25, 2004

With Halloween over and Thanksgiving ending today, retailers of all stripes are gearing up for their favorite time of year, the Christmas Shopping season.

This year, the National Retail Federation expects Christmas sales to climb.

The NRF is expecting sales to increase 4.5 percent during the months of November and December.

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“Stronger-than-expected job growth and a sharp drop in oil prices are setting the stage for solid holiday growth,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “Consumers are demonstrating their resiliency and continuing to reinforce our holiday forecast.”

The NRFs figures were bolstered by numbers showing a 0.2 percent increase in October following a 1.6 percent increase in September

September had the biggest gain in six months.

Experts say consumers bought all types of items during the October.

“In October, people bought just about everything,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. “Demand for clothing, furniture, general merchandise, food, restaurants and health products was solid.”

Analysts, who had been worried that consumer confidence could falter because of the sharp runup in energy prices, took heart from the widespread strength in retail sales outside of autos although they noted that the big 4.3 percent jump in sales at gasoline service stations reflected higher pump prices rather than people driving more.

Even with the increase in retail sales, the NRF is still expecting a spike in certain items, especially the “hot toys” of the season and gift cards, redeemable for merchandise at participating stores.

The NRF’s annual Gift Card Survey projected that the average consumer will spend $80.45 on cards this year, up 11.5 percent from last year.

The NRF also tracked the big toys for kids during the Christmas season.

The survey showed that consumers will be big on Barbie merchandise, Bratz dolls and video games. Other popular toys include Dora the Explorer merchandise, Leap Frog consoles and software, and oldies-but-goodies Care Bears and Cabbage Patch Kids.

Popular toys with boys are topped out by video games, with almost 20 percent of national consumers purchasing them as gifts. Spiderman merchandise, remote control vehicles and Hot Wheels will also be big for the boys.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.