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Trade groups forecast strong holiday season for retailers

Baltimore, MD -11/20/14 - Debbie Anzalone of Rodgers Forge browses in November 2014 at the wrapping paper display at Trohv, a Hampden shop. Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun - #6070
Baltimore, MD -11/20/14 - Debbie Anzalone of Rodgers Forge browses in November 2014 at the wrapping paper display at Trohv, a Hampden shop. Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun - #6070 (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Retailers are in for a strong, yet competitive holiday season, according to two forecasts out Thursday.

Sales in November and December are expected to rise 3.7 percent to $630.5 billion - a bigger jump than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent but less than last year's 4.1 percent gain, the National Retail Federation said. Holiday purchases will account for a fifth of annual retail sales this year, the trade group said.

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Online holiday-related sales will be up even more than store sales - between 6 percent and 8 percent - to about $105 billion, NRF projected. Stores are gearing up to hire between 700,000 and 750,000 seasonal workers.

"With several months of solid retail sales behind us, we're heading into the all-important holiday season fully expecting to see healthy growth," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, said in the group's announcement.

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That said, consumers' ability to spend may be a bit constrained by a slower pace of job creation and income growth, with families expected to spend "prudently and deliberately," Shay said.

Retailers will continue to compete not only on price, but on digital offerings, store hours and special deals, the group said.

In a separate forecast, the Consumer Electronics Association said today that well over half the shoppers in the U.S. plan to buy tech gifts this year, boosting overall holiday sales by 3.4 percent.

Topping the holiday tech wish list are TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptop or notebook computers and video game consoles, the CEA said. Smart home devices, wearable activity trackers and drones also will be popular choices, the group said.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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