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Industry Forecasters Predict Stronger Holiday Shopping Season in Mass.


Despite worry and economic uncertainty, industry forecasters are predicting stronger retail sales this holiday season. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief took a look what small businesses in Western Massachusetts are predicting in the coming weeks.

The holiday shopping season is upon us. Next weekend is the busiest shopping day of the year. But also, economic uncertainty and the looming fiscal cliff are on the minds of many. However, retail industry forecasters are still predicting a stronger holidays sales season this November and December.

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts just released numbers showing they’re predicting a 3.5% increase in sales over last year. In 2011, the Association saw a 5% increase from the previous year, while in 2010, sales jumped 7%. Sales had dropped in 2007, 2008, and 2009 with the economic recession.

In downtown Pittsfield, Michael Moore, owner of an independent toy store, said they’re preparing for a busy few weeks.

And with Thanksgiving coming earlier in November this year, the shopping season is effectively extended a few extra days. Steve Valenti, owner of a men’s clothing store, also in Pittsfield, says that he’s also optimistic about this year. However, Valenti  said that through the economic downturn and slower recovery, he’s had to adjust the way he manages his business.

Valenti also said that last year his business got a boost from Small-Business Saturday – a initiative started in 2010 by American Express that showcases small businesses on the day after Black Friday.

Valenti also mentioned that the fiscal cliff is on his mind, but he’s optimistic that lawmakers and the president can find a deal to avoid the automatic cuts in spending and elimination of the Bush-era tax cuts.

In a release, the President and CEO of the National Retail Federation Matthew Shay said of the fiscal cliff, “The automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year may have more of an impact on business confidence and consumer spending than any other issue.”

Nationwide, the National Retail Federation is predicting a 4.1% increase in Holiday sales over last year.

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts was unavailable for comment before broadcast.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.