Holiday sales nationally are expected to rise slightly this year, and the Omaha area is expecting an even better season.
The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, expects winter holiday sales to rise 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion this year. That would be smaller than 2010's 5.2 percent increase but higher than the average increase for November and December over the past 10 years.
And it would continue a retail recovery begun last year after holiday sales fell the previous two years.
Local holiday sales are expected to be better than national projections because of the area's lower unemployment rate, better job and population growth, stable housing market and record-high farm income, said Ernie Goss, a Creighton University economist.
"I'm more optimistic about this part of country," he said. "I think we'll reach 4 or 5 percent. It's going to be a brighter Christmas buying season here."
Though he agrees with Goss and is optimistic about holiday sales, Bob Batt of the Nebraska Furniture Mart cautioned, "We are still in recovery mode."
"The farmers had a good year and are going to have a good disposable income, but this is a tough year for a lot of people because of the flooding," he said.
Mark Carson, co-owner of Fat Brain Toys, which has a retail store in the Elkhorn area and a website that sells nationally, said he expects the holiday season to be "tepid."
"Overall, my sense is that folks even in Omaha are still feeling uncertain and are holding on to their money," he said.
Carson said that although his company has seen growth in its online sales and retail store sales compared with last year, he is focused on promotions to ensure a profitable holiday season.
The National Retail Federation's national forecast is in line with sales predictions from ShopperTrak and the International Council of Shopping Centers, which each projected a 3 percent increase in sales for November and December.
The 2011 Holiday Retail Sales Forecast, a new report from Ball State University, puts the overall sales increase at only 0.8 percent.
Americans shopped in September, but only when they thought they were getting a deal. The International Council of Shopping Centers said Thursday that revenue rose 5.5 percent in September as several retailers, including Target, Kohl's and Limited Brands, had strong gains.
"Bargains drove the month," said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, a research firm. "There were lot of deals to be had, and we expect to see that follow through the rest of the year."
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
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