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NO SCORCHER SEEN FOR HOLIDAY SALES THOUGH CHENILLE AND CDS WILL HEAT THINGS UP A BIT

By Published on .

Retailers this holiday season should equal last year's sales increase of 5% to 6%, but they'll need help from angels, velour shirts and CD-ROMs to do it.

The double-digit sales gains being recorded at electronics and sporting goods stores will continue to make them among the brightest spots for the holidays, reports Management Horizons, New York, a consulting division of Price Waterhouse & Co.

"CD-ROM units are going to be big gift items this year," agreed Allison Cohen, president of marketing consultancy PeopleTalk. "Any affordable computer stuff will be hot."

Retailers are also predicting healthy sales for compact discs.

Chenille sweaters, velour and velvet shirts, and patterned men's ties will be among the few hot areas in holiday apparel sales.

"There just aren't any exciting fashions out there-we aren't seeing any real changes in silhouette or color," said N. Rick Nelson, a retail analyst with Duff & Phelps, Chicago.

Retailers are offering customers "hyper-variety" in key apparel categories, said Brian Kardon, director of marketing consultancy Braxton Associates, Boston.

Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor and Dayton Hudson Corp.'s department stores are stocking up on several varieties of neckwear whose proceeds help benefit charities. Also popular are ties featuring the artwork of Grateful Dead icon Jerry Garcia.

In fragrances, Calvin Klein Cos- metics Co.'s unisex CK1 is receiving a hefty marketing push; it will likely attract shoppers looking for the catch-all gift.

Toy retailers are forecasting solid gains. Sales are already soaring for Saban Entertainment's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers toys and Mattel's line tied to Walt Disney Co.'s "The Lion King."

Demand for videocassettes of the Disney classic, "Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs," is expected to fuel kids' interest in licensed merchandise.

Sales of videogame software for Sega of America and Nintendo of America 16-bit systems are surging, with the early success of Acclaim Entertainment's Mortal Kombat II and Sega's Sonic & Knuckles games.

Other emerging holiday trends include angel-related and other feel-good merchandise and miniature books. Two such offerings are "More Random Acts of Kindness" from Conari Press and "Be an Angel" from Simon & Schuster.

Analysts offer mixed views on household goods sales. Management Horizons predicts home goods, particularly furniture, will experience slower sales gains as a result of higher interest rates and a weakening housing market.

Duff & Phelps' Mr. Nelson, meanwhile, believes weak apparel assortment will drive shoppers to home purchases. Area rugs and small pieces of furniture are among the products likely to benefit.

Retailers were again disappointed with October results as apparel sales failed to improve. The Salomon Bros. retail sales index rose 3.8% last month, after a 4.7% rise in October 1993.M

Contributing to this story: Kate Fitzgerald, Leah Rickard and Peg Masterson.

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