Analysts Have Rosy Outlook For 2011 Holiday Sales

Analysts are predicting a fairly good year for retailers over the holiday season. Those sales are expected to increase 3 percent overall and go up 15 percent for online retailers. Plus, this is the first year tablets like the iPad may make an impact on the retail landscape.

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It's mid-November, of course, and holiday shopping is well under way. Despite consumer cautiousness and continued high unemployment, the National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will rise almost 3 percent compared with last year. Online sales are expected to post double-digit gains. As NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, the boost in holiday e-commerce may be the result of more mail-order catalogs going digital.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: This is the first year tablets like the iPad may have an impact on the retail landscape. Retailers hope it will expand their advertising distribution without expanding their costs.

SUCHARITA MULPURU: More people looking at your catalog for free - that's a good thing because that's going to increase not only your Web sales, but it's going to increase your store sales, too.

NOGUCHI: Sucharita Mulpuru is a retail analyst at Forrester Research. She says the increase in spending would come despite most consumers reporting they are more price-conscious than last year. Otherwise, Mulpuru says, it's mostly a reprise of last year.

MULPURU: The only pieces that really change about free shipping is how early it's offered, how often it's offered, and what the threshold is for offering it.

NOGUCHI: Whether an anticipated boost in sales will mean more seasonal hiring is an open question. Outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas said holiday hiring is on track to match that of last year. But it's still early, and hiring will only pick up if employers believe consumer demand is strong. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News Washington.

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