N.H. retailers expect a merry Christmas

New Hampshire retailers are generally in good spirits about the upcoming holiday shopping season.

According to a survey conducted of its members by the Retail Merchants Association of New Hampshire, most retailers responding are optimistic about the upcoming key retail season.

“The New Hampshire retail community is anticipating a good holiday season this year. I was surprised by our survey results – retailers were only mildly concerned with increased energy costs, and most of those comments were about a month ago, before gasoline prices started falling.” said Nancy Kyle, president of the association.

According to the survey, 75 percent of those surveyed said they expect their holiday sales to be up or the same as last year, with the average increase in sales expected to be 4.5 percent.

When asked how sales were year to date in 2005, as compared to 2004, 67 percent said sales were up or the same as last year. The average increase in sales so far this year compared to last year was 4.1 percent, according to the survey.

In a survey released by the National Retail Federation, consumers said they expect to spend an average of $738.11 on holiday gifts this year, up 5.1 percent from 2004.

As for the effect of increased gasoline prices on their business, 71 percent of those surveyed said that they would “possibly or only somewhat” have an effect on sales. Some 10 percent said the cost of getting products has increased because of fuel surcharges. But surcharges are expected to disappear or lower as gasoline prices continue to fall.

When asked what they anticipated their largest problem in running their stores during this holiday season, retailers cited expense control, losses due to internal and external theft and difficulties in staffing.

When it comes to next year, 83 percent of the retailers surveyed said they felt first-quarter sales for 2006 will be the same or higher than the previous year, with the average increase in sales expected to be 5 percent. — NHBR STAFF

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