U.S. holiday sales to rise as much as 10.5%, hit record levels in 2021 - NRF

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Oct 27 (Reuters) - U.S. holiday sales could rise over 10% from last year in 2021, a trade body said on Wednesday, as major consumer goods makers and retailers work to prevent supply chain disruptions from leaving shelves empty of in-demand toys and games.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecast sales to increase between 8.5% and 10.5%, to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion, during November and December, compared with a previous high of $777.3 billion in 2020. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

The U.S. retail group's forecast is one of the most closely watched benchmarks ahead of the holiday season, when retailers such as Amazon.com Inc, Walmart Inc and Target Corp book an outsized portion of their profit and sales.

Several shoppers were concerned they would have difficulty finding electronics, clothes and toys due to supply issues brought on by COVID-19, a survey from NRF and research firm Prosper Insights & Analytics showed last week.

"If retailers can keep merchandise on the shelves and merchandise arrives before Christmas, it could be a stellar holiday sales season," NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

Several companies, including toymakers Hasbro Inc and Mattel Inc, have said people would be able to find their products on the shelves during the holiday period despite a supply-chain crunch that has left them with soaring freight costs and products stuck in transit.

Amazon has doubled its container processing capacity and secured more shipping storage from ocean freight carriers, while other companies have been redirecting their goods to come in through East Coast ports, away from the congested West Coast.

Several retailers had begun their holiday selling as early as September, warning their customers their favorite items could sell out or delivery could take longer than usual.

(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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