Customer Growth Partners: Holiday sales to rise 6.5%, to $554 billion

New Canaan, Conn. -- Value-focused but financially healthier American consumers will propel 2011 holiday sales to a record $554 billion, according to retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners’ 10th annual holiday forecast. The forecast, which is significantly more upbeat than other holiday surveys, predicts total retail sales growth of 6.5% for the November-December period over last year, the most rapid growth since 6.9% in 2004 — and over twice consensus forecasts called for lackluster growth of only 2.5%-3%.

“American households — at least the 91% with jobs — have deleveraged dramatically since 2007, while disposable income continues to rise, generating almost $50 billion/month in incremental free cash flow, even with gasoline price hikes,” said Craig Johnson, CEO,  Customer Growth Partners, a consulting and research firm focused on consumer service industries, including retail, finance and communications. “And after three years of scrimping and saving, Americans are ready to spend — strategically and smartly, but for the first time in years, very few things will stand between an American consumer and her shopping destination.”

According to the forecast, apparel will lead holiday sales growth, with a year-over-year increase of 7.6%, led by the best burst of fashion excitement and newness in years. E-commerce will continue to be the fastest growing channel, at 12% YOY — a slightly slower pace than last year. Value retailers will also thrive, growing 8% YOY, led by the dollar stores and off-price apparel chains, and department stores will enjoy their best holiday in years.

“But despite the rebound we’re seeing across the retail landscape, the two fastest growing retailers are not traditional merchants at all — but Amazon and Apple, both growing about 40% a year, and both now Top 10 retailers as we enter 2012,” Johnson said.

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