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The turkey barometer forecasts a good year for holiday retail sales.

Marshall Loewenstein, third-generation owner of Loewenstein Poultry, Taylor, Mich., claims to have accurately forecast retail sales for 40 years, based on his holiday gift turkey sales.

Mr. Loewenstein calculates the strength of businesses by how many order turkeys or hams to give employees over the holidays. That translates into employee confidence and a willingness to spend more freely in their own shopping.

"We have a very good way of knowing what holiday retail sales are going to be based upon turkeys," he said. "Although, I don't think that Harvard would accept my philosophy."

This year, turkey orders have increased 10% to 12%. About 3% to 5% of companies have increased the size of turkeys ordered, showing employers are willing to spend more.

Loewenstein Poultry does $4 million in the food gift business annually, distributing more than 300,000 gift turkeys in addition to hams, steaks and cheese gifts to employers in eight markets.

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