WASHINGTON DC: US retailers, looking ahead at the crucial holiday season, should take comfort from the release of upbeat sales estimates from the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The trade body's closely watched forecast expects retail sales in November and December to increase 3.6% to $655.8bn, a significant improvement on the 10-year average of 2.5% and an increase on the 3.4% average over the last seven years since the economic recovery began in 2009.

"All of the fundamentals are in a good place, giving strength to consumers and leading us to believe that this will be a very positive holiday season," said Matthew Shay, NRF President and CEO.

"This year hasn't been perfect, starting with a long summer and unseasonably warm fall, but our forecast reflects the very realistic steady momentum of the economy and industry expectations. We remain optimistic that the pace of economic activity will pick up in the near term."

Online retailers are also expected to benefit from consumers' willingness to spend more this holiday season, with the NRF forecasting that non-store sales will increase between 7% and 10% to as much as $117bn. The forecast excludes spending on cars, gasoline and restaurants for both online and offline purchases.

"Consumers have seen steady job and income gains throughout the year, resulting in continued confidence and the greater use of credit, which bodes well for more spending throughout the holiday season," said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF's Chief Economist.

However, he went on to caution that the NRF's upbeat forecast could be affected by geopolitical uncertainty, negative fallout from the presidential election or unseasonably warm weather.

The NRF's report comes a week after research firm eMarketer also delivered a positive outlook, forecasting that US e-commerce sales will jump 17.2% this holiday season to $94.71bn. That would represent 10.7% of total retail sales – its largest share ever.

Data sourced from National Retail Federation, eMarketer; additional content by Warc staff