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    NRF Urges Congress to Address Economy, Help Consumers

    According to the trade group, a second round of economic stimulus would help spur consumer spending and create demand across all economic sectors.

    The National Retail Federation yesterday urged Congress to hold a lame duck session to deal with the nation's economic situation as soon as possible after the November elections, and to include tax relief for consumers in any economic stimulus package that is adopted.

    "Consumer confidence has been badly eroded by the foundering economy and instability of the financial markets," noted NRF president and c.e.o. Tracy Mullin. "Because consumer spending represents two-thirds of GDP and supports tens of millions of jobs, it is difficult, if not impossible, to foresee an improvement in overall economic growth until consumer confidence and spending improve."

    Mullin added that a second round of economic stimulus, following the checks received earlier this year, was necessary to spur consumer spending, thereby creating demand throughout all of the nation's economic sectors.

    The exec's comments came in a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

    Pelosi said this week that the House is mulling a lame duck session after the Nov. 4 elections to work on economic stimulus legislation. The Senate is already scheduled to return Nov. 17, although the agenda for its session is still undetermined.

    Meanwhile, retailers are facing the worst holiday season in six years. NRF's annual forecast forecasts that sales will rise 2.2 percent to $470.4 billion, the slowest growth since 2002, when holiday sales rose 1.3 percent, and half the 10-year average of 4.4 percent.

    A survey conducted on the Washington-based trade group's behalf this summer found that consumers had spent or planned to spend 46 percent of the $105.7 billion in rebate checks authorized under the economic stimulus bill President Bush signed into law in February. That would amount to about $48 billion put into circulation in the economy, with most of the remainder used to pay down debt or put into savings to help drive future spending.

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