Mass retailers expect shoppers this holiday season


Massachusetts retailers predict sales during the holiday season will rise 4.3 percent above the comparable period last year, marking the first increase in four years, the State House News Service reported.

Retailers felt a 1 percent drop in sales in November and December 2009, compared to the 2008 holiday period, after a 7 percent decline in 2008 and a 1 percent decline in 2007. The projection of increased sales is based on a survey of the 3,200 members of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

The National Retail Federation projects a 2.3 percent increase in holiday sales this year. “Although the holiday sales season of 2010 will certainly continue to present competitive and profitability challenges for local retailers given economy, there is more cautious optimism this year than in any season since 2007,” association president Jon Hurst said in a statement. “Consumers will continue to enjoy an environment of extensive promotions and value due to slow economic growth and a multitude of shopping options.”

Hurst said that growing consumer confidence is leading to more store hiring this year in Massachusetts — the retail sector employs 569,000 people — and that local inventories are up 4.6 percent over a year ago. Retailers are also expected to reward customers who follow them on social media.

The state Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick raised the state sales tax to 6.25 percent from 5 percent in 2009. A ballot question to cut that rate to 3 percent failed this month.