NEW YORK — Retailers can expect sales gains this holiday season comparable to a year ago as the economy improves at a gradual but steady pace, financial services firm Deloitte LLP said here Monday.

The company said it expects total holiday sales to climb between 4% and 4.5% over last year, similar to last year's growth rate of 4.5%. It also forecasts an increase of 12.5% to 13% in non-store sales, primarily from online purchases.


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Alison Paul, vice president of Deloitte and its retail and distribution sector leader, said brick-and-mortar stores will still be a core element of holiday shopping, "and retailers leading the way this season will be those that effectively bring together their pricing, promotions, merchandise and inventory management across both their physical and digital storefronts.

"Additionally shoppers researching their purchases via PC, tablet or mobile phone are increasingly influencing in-store sales, particularly as we see greater integration across retailers' store, online and mobile channels."

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According to Daniel Bachman, Deloitte's senior U.S. economist, "Rising home prices with steady job creation may buoy consumers' confidence in the economy and create a wealth effect. The debt ceiling and budget debate will resume this fall, alongside uncertainty about the implementation of health care reform, which may cause some concern among consumers, but at a macro level these factors are unlikely to have a significant effect on the economy and retail sales."

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