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Report: Deloitte expects 2% holiday sales growth

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New York City A report released Monday by Deloitte’s retail group said that a modest increase in holiday sales is expected, as slow economic growth keeps household spending plans in check.

Deloitte said it expects total holiday sales to reach $852 billion, representing a 2% increase in November-through-January holiday sales, excluding motor vehicles and gasoline, over last season. This growth rate represents a slight improvement over last year's 1% gain.

"Sustained weakness in the housing and employment markets continue to restrict consumer cash flow," said Carl Steidtmann, Deloitte's chief economist.

Steidtmann added, "Consumers discretionary funds have dwindled as households remain focused on reducing debt and increasing their savings, while banks continue to limit access to credit and stimulus checks have run out. Should consumers receive good tidings later this season in the way of falling energy prices or additional stock market gains, they may be able to lend retailers a bit more holiday cheer. However, given the unsteady pace of economic recovery, retailers should expect only a small uptick in holiday sales this year."

Despite its conservative outlook, Deloitte is expecting some positive news this holiday season.

"Non-store retailing, particularly e-commerce, is gearing up to be the bright spot in the holiday picture this year," said Alison Paul, vice chairman and Deloitte's retail sector leader in the United States.

According to Paul, Deloitte forecasts a 15% increase in non-store sales. Nearly two-thirds of non-store sales are from the online channel, with the remainder coming from catalogs and interactive TV.