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BTS season gets underway with favorable outlook

Stronger-than-expected sales from a number of retailers in June is adding credence to a recent forecast that this year’s back-to-dchool season could be the strongest in the past five years, which is good news for Walmart as it looks for a strong ending to its second quarter.

Shoppers continue to face a lot of economic headwinds this back-to-school season, but one forecaster has seasonal sales growing by 6.2% to $467 billion, the most since 2006.

That’s according to retail consultants Customer Growth Partners’ annual BTS forecast, which defies warnings of a double-dip recession and sees American households as being more resilient with their back-to-school spending during the July through September time frame.

“Navigating nimbly through the minefields of inflation, employment and housing woes, the 91% of Americans with jobs are much savvier shoppers than before the recession – and they are shopping again,” said CGP president Craig Johnson. “But for the long-term jobless, the triple whammy of food, fuel and now clothing inflation will make this summer another bummer.”

CGP’s 6.2% growth forecast marks the sharpest back-to-school retail growth since similarly strong 6.2% growth in the housing bubble economy of 2006. The 6.2% BTS 2011 growth tops even 2010’s strong 5.5% rebound from 2009’s abysmal 3.8% BTS decline.

What’s behind the stronger than expected back-to-school season?  CGP’s study points to several key drivers behind the robust outlook including, continued growth in disposable personal income that is 3% above last year’s level, healthier household finances with lower debt levels and a modest degree of private sector job growth.

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