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Holiday Central: The Post-Christmas Rush

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Both the National Retail Federation and SpendingPulse report a rise in holiday sales this year – but not a better jump than 2005. It may be too early to count this year out, though. As CNBC’s Margaret Brennan reported on “Morning Call,” $84 billion worth of gift cards have yet to be redeemed.

Brennan attributes that figure to Marshal Cohen of NPD Group. He sees overall holiday sales coming in at about $400 billion this year. That’s still below the National Retail Federation’s projected $457 billion.

Sales this past Saturday were disappointing, considering retailers were depending on the final weekend before Christmas for a boost. But Brennan says 10% to 15% of all holiday spending happens this week, so the season isn’t over yet.

“This is really all about the inventory game in the next few weeks for retailers,” Brennan says. Shoppers have money to spend and gift cards to cash in, and they’ll be looking for more than what they saw before the holiday. It will be important for retailers to introduce new products this week, whether spring apparel lines or consumer electronics, in order to take advantage of the free-flowing money.

Brennan also says to watch for an increase in plasma TV sales just before the Super Bowl at the end of January.

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