NEW YORK (AP) - A bigger-than-expected surge in holiday spending in November led a prominent research firm to raise its forecast for the season for the second time in a matter of weeks.
The upgraded forecast by ShopperTrak follows an upgraded outlook from the National Retail Federation on Tuesday. The early buying surge is likely to offset a disappointing start to December.
ShopperTrak, based in Chicago, said Wednesday it now expects holiday sales to rise 4 percent over last year, up from a previous projection of 3.2 percent made in mid-November. The original estimate was for a 2.9 percent increase.
ShopperTrak said November's revenue rose 5.8 percent compared with a year ago, as stores successfully pulled in shoppers with discounts. ShopperTrak had expected 3.7 percent.
The National Retail Federation now expects total holiday sales to rise 3.3 percent, 1 percentage point higher than the original 2.3 percent growth forecast.
The increasing optimism comes as government figures released Tuesday showed that retail sales for November jumped 0.8 percent over October, marking the fifth straight monthly gain. The increase was led by department stores, which posted a 2.8 percent gain.
Shoppers, however, have had a bit of a hangover so far in December. Sales for the week ended Saturday fell 0.4 percent compared with last year, according to ShopperTrak.
Another culprit in that decline was a Midwest snowstorm that dumped mounds of snow on Sunday, closing major highways in several states. Minnesota's Mall of America, the nation's biggest mall, was forced to close a few hours earlier on Saturday.
That means that more pressure will be on stores in the final 10 days before Christmas, which have been becoming increasingly important. Last year, that period accounted for 34 percent of holiday sales, up from 31 percent from 2006, according to ShopperTrak.