Oct 4 - Chain store sales rose in September but many risks could roil this holiday shopping season including continued high unemployment, a ''fiscal cliff'' and an event, perhaps in Europe, that shakes up the stock market. Sasha Salama reports.
With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, the nation's retailers rang up sales gains in September. And while those gains met expectations, they were much smaller than what we saw last year. It seems consumers are tightening up their purse strings, as several risks loom. REPORTER BRIDGE: SASHA SALAMA, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "With unemployment holding above 8%, uncertainty seems to be the watchword ahead of this holiday shopping season." Michael Niemira is chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers. SOUNDBITE: MICHAEL NIEMIRA, CHIEF ECONOMIST, INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF SHOPPING CENTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "There's a lot of uncertainty about the consumer, there's a lot of uncertainty about the economy." Hanging in the balance this year - $500 billion dollars in automatic spending cuts to the federal budget and tax increases slated for January first - unless Congress agrees on an alternative plan. SOUNDBITE: MICHAEL NIEMIRA, CHIEF ECONOMIST, INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF SHOPPING CENTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "If it's not good news out of Congress, it could affect the willingness of the consumer to spend during this holiday season." Another potential risk to holiday spending: some event, either in the U.S. or Europe, that takes the wind out of the stock market's sails. SOUNDBITE: MICHAEL NIEMIRA, CHIEF ECONOMIST, INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF SHOPPING CENTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "If there's a stock market reaction, a negative one, that could be a huge risk to this holiday season and a huge risk to high-end spenders." With overall consumer spending accounting for 70% of U.S. economic activity, the nation's retailers will no doubt be watching for any signs of a further slowdown in spending. Sasha Salama, Reuters