NRF: Holiday sales won’t be as bad as feared

Washington, D.C. -- The National Retail Federation on Wednesday was quick to shine a more positive light on holiday sales 2012, suggesting that reports of the worst holiday results since 2008 are not correct.

Matthew Shay, president of the NRF, said he's still predicting a 4.1% increase. "We're still pretty optimistic it's going to be a solid year," Shay said Wednesday on CNBC’s "Squawk on the Street." "We're still going to have year-over-year growth" of 4.1%. But that is down from 5.6% growth last year.

The MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which tracks holiday spending, said Tuesday that sales in the two months before Christmas increased 0.7%, compared to last year. Many analysts had expected holiday sales to grow 3% to 4%. Shay, however, said that the MasterCard survey is limited and doesn't cover online sales.

Despite the continued optimism, Shay acknowledged that consumer confidence had weakened heading into the holidays following super storm Sandy and the ongoing debate about the "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts that could go into effect early next year.

"We've been saying from the beginning this is a cautious and careful consumer, and it wouldn't take much to knock us off this nice progression," of consumer spending, Shay said.

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