NRF study forecasts another year of slow sales

NEW YORK The National Retail Federation said it expects retail sales to remain slow well into 2009 with shoppers flocking to discount stores for lower prices.

During an Aug. 28 conference call with analysts, NRF spokesman Scott Krugman said high gas prices, inflation and the housing slump should continue to produce a tough environment for retailers. He said the NRF is forecasting a 3.5 percent increase in total growth for 2008 following a 3.7 percent increase in 2007.

“And those numbers aren’t as good as they sound because we’re coming off a year of easy comps,” said Krugman.

The NRF won’t release its holiday sales forecast until September but it’s not likely to bring good news. “We don’t see a turnaround until, at the earliest, the second half of next year and even that may be optimistic,” said Krugman.

The NRF also re-affirmed its forecast for back-to-school spending, which predicts families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade will spend $599.24 compared with $563.49 in 2007, with parents focusing on essential items. It forecasts a 7 percent drop in spending for back-to-college students with an average of $599 per student compared with $641 last year.

NRF data also shows the number of people shopping at discount retailers increased 7 percent this year, as shoppers hunt for lower prices.

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