COLUMBUS, Ohio: “He was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone,” Charles Dickens wrote of his famous miser Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, evoking  a specter that could hang heavy over US retailers this Christmas-Yet-to-Come, if spending forecasts by TNS/Retail Forward and Deloitte are correct.

According to TNS/RF, sales will increase by 1.5% in November and December this year, the worst holiday season growth levels since 1991.

Deloitte forecasts an increase of 2.5% to 3%, compared with the 7% high of 2008, though more in tune with the 3.8% of 2006 and the 2.7% upswing recorded last year.

Frank Badillo, a senior economist for TNS/RF, commented: “The benefit from a letup in gasoline prices will be overwhelmed by the impact of rising unemployment, tighter credit and other hardships on households.”

A recent report by Forrester Research also predicts that internet sales will grow at a higher rate than those via other sources, but that this upswing will be lower than the gains of previous years.

Online and high-street retailers are also expected to offer more sizeable deals earlier in the year than has previously been the case; fashion chain Target, for example, is offering free shipping on 60,000 products for the week of November 30.

Data sourced from USA Today; additional content by WARC staff