CHICAGO - With high unemployment and other gloomy economic trends, the first holiday shopping forecasts, not surprisingly, don't present a merry picture for retailers.

ShopperTrak says that national retail sales will rise by just 3 percent during November and December from the same period in 2010, less than last year's 4.1 percent gain. The Chicago-based retail consultant makes its predictions using a mix of foot traffic at malls and economic trends.

"The persistently high unemployment and fuel rates along with consumers' conservative purchasing attitudes will affect spending this holiday season more than in recent years," ShopperTrak co-founder Bill Martin said in a statement. "Every shopper in a store will be more valuable than last year, and retail stores should be ready to convert their holiday shoppers into sales."

ShopperTrak's forecast matches the prediction of the International Council of Shopping Centers, which said on Friday that sales trends are challenging for retailers.

The holiday season accounts for about 20 percent of U.S. retail sales.

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ShopperTrak said foot traffic will be 2.2 percent lighter than it was a year ago, meaning that it will more important for retailers to convert browsers into buyers.

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