Retailers hopeful despite tight spending forecast

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As retailers enter the final stretch of the holiday shopping season, they’re hoping shoppers will open wide their pocketbooks, despite lackluster spending predictions.

Overall holiday sales are expected to increase, though shopper sentiment is still on a downward trend.

Consumer confidence fell in December to a five-month low, according to a Dec. 21 report from Reuters/University of Michigan, which rated confidence at 72.9, the weakest since July when it came in at 82.7.

Weak online sales also indicate a conservative shopping mood.

Online sales increased 8.4 percent this holiday season, compared with last year’s almost 16 percent gain, according to analysts at SpendingPulse.

The National Retail Federation has has predicted that overall holiday sales will rise 4.1 percent to about $586.1 billion this year, compared with a 5.6 percent gain in 2011.

Sales for November and December account for 20 percent to 40 percent of U.S. retailers’ annual revenue, the NRF said.

The International Council of Shopping Centers  forecasts retailers will report a 4 percent to 4.5 percent  sales increase for December.