NEW YORK — Despite a gloomy forecast for retailers this holiday season, the National Retail Federation is predicting a 4 percent uptick in total holiday sales over last year’s registered general merchandise, apparel, furniture, home furnishings, electronics and appliance store (GAF) sales of $201 billion.

According to "The NRF 2002 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey," conducted for the retailers’ group by consumer market intelligence firm Bigresearch, consumers are expected to spend an average of $649, a 2.6 percent increase over last year’s projected spending. Based on the survey plus additional economic indicators, impulse purchasing and additional promotional activity, NRF projects the overall increase to reach 4 percent.

Some of the forces driving consumer shopping decisions will be value and merchandise selection. Sales or price discounts are the most important factors for 40 percent of consumers surveyed, while 24 percent viewed selection as key.

"We will be seeing a very promotional retail environment for the holiday season," said Tracy Mullin, president and chief executive officer at the NRF, in a statement. "In essence, all retailers will be discounters. We believe this will provide plenty of incentive for consumers to come out and shop this holiday season."

According to the survey, shoppers will head to a mix of store types: 77 percentto discount department stores; 53 percent to traditional department stores; 46 percent will shop on the Internet; 45 percent at specialty retailers, and 37 percent from catalogs.

In addition, books, CDs, DVDs and video games topped consumer wish lists at 53 percent, with apparel and accessories at 51 percent.

"This has been a very tough selling environment for retailers, due in part to our weakened economic climate and the volatile situation with Iraq," said Mullin. "Expectations for consumer spending are down, but we feel consumers are still willing to open their wallets for a good bargain. That’s what all retailers will be offering this holiday season — really good bargains."

By comparison, as reported, a recent NPDFashionworld study revealed consumers’ plans to hold out for the best sales promotions, to shift shopping expeditions increasingly to value-driven stores, and to expect to boost spending versus holiday 2001 by an average of $60, or 10 percent, to $660.

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