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Expert: Sandy not likely to disrupt holiday spending

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Optimism among retailers was not dampened by Hurricane Sandy, according to an expert, and recent survey results show high consumer confidence and a slowly improving economy are pointing to an optimistic holiday season.

The 2012 retail compass survey, performed annually by BDO USA LLP, found chief marketing officers around the country are expecting the largest growth in year-over-year holiday sales since the economic decline. Stores are expecting a 3.7 percent jump in sales over 2011.

Al Ferrara, national director of retail and consumer product practice for BDO, said the devastation of Hurricane Sandy will slow consumption temporarily, but he expects there to be a surge in sales once the East Coast's gas woes are relieved.

Ferrara cited the need for clothing and durable goods, like appliances, as a potential boost for the retail industry.

"Of course some things are irreplaceable, but essentials like clothing will need to be purchased," Ferrara said.

"The question is whether the surge in sales will be large enough to make up" for the sales lost during the storm, Ferrara said. "People are hanging out in the food court and window shopping, but they're not buying anything right now."

He also pointed to the steady increases in consumer confidence as a reason for retailers to be hopeful this holiday season. Since big layoff announcements are no longer an everyday occurrence, consumers are finding they no longer have to be as fearful about spending money.

The BDO survey was conducted in September with 100 chief marketing officers of major retailers around the country. Other findings include the continued trends of gift care popularity and smaller inventory levels. CMOs also expect electronics to be very popular gifts, with new handheld devices announced by many of the major manufacturers.

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