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Holiday shopping may slow despite optimism

Sept. 29, 2012 at 4:46 PM

WILKES-BARRE, Pa., Sept. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. consumers "desire to spend much more" on holiday shopping this year but not be able to, because of persistent tough economic times, a retail analyst said.

Anthony L. Liuzzo, a business and economics professor at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania who has been producing holiday retail sales forecasts for more than 20 years, said several factors will boost holiday shopping -- including consumer optimism after the November election, regardless of who wins.

"There is a certain optimism on the part of voters that carries over into their retail spending habits," Liuzzo said in a statement. "Consumer confidence should rise in the days immediately following the election."

In addition, the holiday shopping season will be extra-long, Liuzzo said.

Thanksgiving falls Nov. 22, making the shopping season 32 days long, the highest number possible. In addition, Christmas falls on a Tuesday and retailers like Christmas to fall on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday because it means that there will be a five weekends of shopping, Liuzzo said.

However, Liuzzo said unemployment, reduced salaries, stagnant pay, higher consumer prices and tougher access to credit might depress consumer holiday buying.

"Despite the fact that consumers indeed desire to spend much more this year than they did last year, they might be unable to do so, due to the continued high rate of unemployment, fears of job losses, extremely modest wage increases, the depressed housing market and uncertainty in stock prices," Liuzzo said.

Liuzzo predicted a 3 percent increase for holiday retail sales -- lower than last season's 4.1 percent -- because of economic uncertainties.

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