Calling Christmas before you've started shopping

Shoppers browse sale merchandise at a Sears store in Peoria, Illinois.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Labor Day has barely come and gone, but that hasn't stopped one analytics firm from issuing the first of many Christmas holiday sales forecasts that will be released over the next few months.

According to ShopperTrak, which compiles sales and traffic data from the 80,000 tracking devices it has in bricks-and-mortar stores, retail sales in November and December are expected to rise 2.4 percent.

The prediction accompanied ShopperTrak's back-to-school results, released Thursday, which found that August sales rose 4.7 percent. That was despite 2.7 percent fewer visits from shoppers. And in July, sales increased 4 percent compared to the prior year.

"Several trends indicate a successful November and December, including the rise of the educated consumer—who visits the store less but buys more—and the lengthening of the shopping season," said Kevin Kearns, ShopperTrak's chief revenue officer.

Last year, ShopperTrak said holiday sales increased 4.6 percent, topping its forecast for 3.8 percent growth and representing the biggest gain since 2005. That year, sales registered 5.2 percent growth.

Shoppers at a Walmart store
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To be sure, there is still a lot of time before the holiday shopping season kicks off in earnest. For one, the Federal Reserve on Thursday will announce whether it will raise interest rates, and if so, by how much. Some experts worry that rate hike could cause shoppers to reign in spending.

Analysts have also expressed concern about fluctuations in the U.S. stock market, which could weigh on consumer confidence.

Earlier this week, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas predicted retailers would hire roughly 755,000 seasonal employees during the final three months of the year, about the same as last year.

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