New York City -- The International Council of Shopping Centers said it expects holiday sales to increase 3% this year, which is below the 4.1% gain in 2010.
Holiday sales are expected to reach $250.2 billion, the highest since the 2007 peak, when spending totaled $251.7 billion, according to the group, whose forecast is among the first to come out for the holiday 2011 shopping season.
The ICSC predicted that holiday same-store sales will rise 3.5%, slightly lower than the 3.8% pace in 2010.
"The sales trends paint a continued picture of unevenness," said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist. "Luxury spending continues to be strong and consistent. Wholesale clubs are doing very well. The mid-tier retailers are seeing mixed performance. And the low-end retailers are a bit more challenged."
Luxury retailers are expected to perform best, with predictions for a 7.5% same-store sales increase. Niemira predicted that discounters’ sales would rise 2.5%.
Rising basic household costs in food and gas along with a weak job market are driving a wider wedge between the wealthy and everyone else. Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, cited in August that its low-income shoppers are having a harder time stretching their dollars to the next payday than they did a year ago.