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Shopping Center Group Trims Sales Forecast

International Council of Shopping Centers predicts November sales will be up 3 to 4 percent, below the original forecast growth range of 5 percent to 8 percent.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The International Council of Shopping Centers trimmed its November sales growth forecast on Tuesday as shoppers are falling behind in their holiday buying compared with a year ago.

Michael P. Niemira, chief economist for ICSC, now predicts that November sales at stores open at least a year -- a key industry barometer -- will be up 3 to 4 percent, compared with the steep 7.7 percent drop a year ago.

But the projection is below Niemira's original forecast for growth in a range of 5 percent to 8 percent.

Sales at stores open at least a year are considered a key indicator of a retailer's health.

Major retailers are scheduled to report final November results Thursday. The tally excludes Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which stopped reporting its monthly sales figures after April.

ICSC's trimmed forecast follows an unimpressive start to the holiday shopping season for many land-based stores, though online sales were a bright spot. Niemira said in a statement that electronics was another strong category.

Niemira noted that his group's latest phone survey of 1,000 shoppers conducted from Wednesday through Sunday showed that consumers polled reported an average 42.2 pecent of their shopping completed, compared with 48.3 percent during the same week a year ago.

ShopperTrak, which is based in Chicago and tracks sales and traffic at more than 50,000 outlets, said late Monday that retail sales for Friday and Saturday edged up 0.9 percent to $16.77 billion, while customer traffic fell 2.7 percent compared with last year.

ShopperTrak derives its estimates from crowd-counting sensors in stores, combined with data from the retailers themselves on spending and how it relates to customer traffic.

Meanwhile, online sales Thursday and Friday, however, rose to $913 million, up 11 percent compared with last year, according to data released Sunday by comScore, an Internet research firm.

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