Despite signs that the recession is coming to an end is not enough to trigger a happy holiday shopping season, Reuters has reported.
Industry experts and analysts told Reuters that as long as the unemployment rate remains near 10 percent, and home foreclosures continue to rise, consumers are likely to keep their spending in check.
The outlook for the holidays comes despite news this week that U.S. retail sales rose at the fastest pace in 3-1/2 years in August.
"It is certain that we are not even remotely returning to anything that looks like Christmas two or three years ago," retail analyst Patricia Edwards told Reuters.
September and October are peak periods for holiday inventory buildup — a time when port workers, truck and rail companies typically scramble deliver to retailers the assortment of electronics, apparel, accessories, toys and games and other goods that stock shelves for holiday shoppers. That is not the case this year.
"We would normally in the past have seen significant upticks by now," John Lanigan, chief marketing officer for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp, told Reuters.
The Commerce Department said retail sales climbed 2.7 percent after declining 0.2 percent in July for the biggest monthly advance since January 2006.
But experts say much of the rise was attributable to the government's "cash for clunkers" auto buying incentive program, and not to a surge in consumer confidence.
"The consumer is still seeing unemployment rising. They are definitely saving more and spending a lot less," Michael Dart, a principal at retail analyst Kurt Salmon Associates, told Reuters.