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IBM eyeing early Christmas for retailers

Shoppers are expected to ring in Christmas early this year by spending more than usual on consumer electronics and appliances starting in November, Big Blue forecasts.

Consumer electronics retailers may be in store for some early Christmas cheer this year.

Sales of consumer electronics and appliances are expected to total $10.1 billion this November, a 4 percent rise over the same month last year, according to a forecast out today from IBM. Consumer electronics alone could ring in about $8.6 billion in sales for the month.

Looking ahead to December, overall sales from both categories should reach $13.8 billion, a 4 percent rise from December 2009, with $12.1 billion of that spent on consumer electronics. In another twist, the sales momentum going from October to November is expected to be stronger this year than in previous years, but momentum from November to December is likely to be weaker than in the past, according to IBM.

IBM is forecasting a cheerier holiday season for electronics retailers this year.
IBM is forecasting a cheerier holiday season for electronics retailers this year. IBM

Consumer electronics include devices such as TVs, computers, cell phones, and cameras, while appliances cover household items such as refrigerators, dishwashers, dryers, and stoves. Last year, sales of consumer electronics from the end of November to the end of December dipped less than 1 percent from 2008, reaching $10.8 billion, according to figures from the NPD Group.

"The forecast indicates that retailers should be ready for a robust Black Friday and Cyber Monday," IBM retail analytics leader Michael Haydock said in a statement, referring to the Friday and Monday following Thanksgiving. "Retailers that staff up and stock up for November and invest in advertising are likely to have a substantial advantage in the marketplace."

One possible reason for the cheerier holiday season, says Haydock, is that disposable income and household savings are both on the rise, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, indicating pent-up consumer demand.

IBM based its forecast on Census Bureau data from surveys of retail stores combined with its own analytics software to predict the seasonal peaks and valleys.