September 19, 2002, 12:00 AM

Slowing sales growth ahead, Retail Forward warns

Retail sales will grow only 3.3% during the holidays with online sales growing 16% during the same period, Retail Forward predicts.

 

Growth in retail sales will taper off during the holiday shopping season, with total sales clocking their most anemic growth rate in 10 years, predicts consultants Retail Forward Inc. All sales will grow only 3.3% during the holidays with online sales growing 16% during the same period, Retail Forward predicts.

Online sales will reach $13 billion during the fourth quarter, Retail Forward predicts, vs. last year’s $11.2 billion. Retail Forward’s projection is $800 million less than the project of comScore Networks Inc., which is anticipating growth of 27% to $13.8 billion from a base last year of $10.8 billion.

“The outlook for retailers - and for the economy at large - continues to be the result of a tug-of-war between the positive and negative forces pulling at the economy,” said Ira Kalish, chief economist for Retail Forward. “For the most part, the positive forces – notably strong home buying and refinancing – have outweighed the negative forces in the consumer economy.”

However, the outlook for the holiday and the start of 2003 reflects the waning influence of some of the positive factors and the growing impact of the negative factors – such as lingering fallout in the job market. “The result of the tug-of-war will still be positive growth, but it should be weaker than it’s been,” Kalish said. “And it won’t be until 2003 before positive factors – particularly job and income growth – gain renewed strength and begin to power a more sustainable, albeit modest, recovery.”

 

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