Retail group says holiday season off to a strong start

NEW YORK (AP) — The largest U.S. retail trade group says the holiday shopping season has gotten off to a “very strong” start.

The National Retail Federation says consumer spending has been strong, fueled by a better economy and stores’ investments in online services.

The trade group’s assessment comes even after a survey of more than 3,000 shoppers Thanksgiving and Friday forecast that fewer people would turn out for the five-day weekend that ended Monday compared to a year ago. It attributed the drop to stores spreading out their deals beyond the Black Friday weekend.

The group now says it expects sales for November and December will be at the high end of its earlier forecast of a 4.3 to 4.8 percent rise. That would be below last year’s 5.3 percent increase.

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