NRF Goes Conservative On '06 Holiday Sales Growth

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Retail sales this holiday season may not match last year's, according to the National Retail Federation.

Overall holiday sales this year are expected to grow 5 percent to $457.4 billion, from a 6.1 percent jump last year to $435.6 billion, according to estimates from the Washington-based retail lobby.

"Consumers have faced a number of economic challenges this year and have taken them in stride," NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells said in a statement. "Although sales gains will not be as robust as last year, retailers can still expect above-average holiday sales growth."

Holiday sales have averaged a 4.6 percent growth rate in the past decade as measured by NRF.

The numbers matter since a fifth of all retail sales occur during the holidays. For some merchants, like toy retailers, the holidays account for almost half their annual sales.

NRF expects falling gas prices may help spur more holiday shopping.

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