Iowa retailers are beginning preparations for the Christmas holiday shopping season. Ron Prescott, a retail specialist at Iowa State University, says the early forecast nationally calls for a 3.4-percent boost in sales compared to last year.

He’s not sure we’ll see that big of an increase in Iowa. “We may not have that 3.4, but I’m certainly feeling that we’re going to have a 2.4 to 3.0 percent increase in sales,” Prescott says. His prediction is based in part on sales tax receipts collected by the Iowa Department of Revenue.

So far this year, sales are up roughly 1.2 percent in the state. It’s also a bit early to get a read on how much consumers will really spend over the holidays. “People are just getting into that shopping mood,” Prescott says. The peak time for Christmas shopping usually falls between roughly November 15th and the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

There’s another reason to believe holiday sales will rise this year as inventory sales are up and many larger retailers are reporting they’ll boost employment. “And these aren’t part-time people, these are full-time people,” Prescott says. “They’re putting on quite a few people for the expected rush, so that’s kind of encouraging.”

In addition to competing with their fellow “brick-and-mortar,” Iowa retailers continue to lose customers to online giants like Amazon. Prescott says Amazon is forecasting a 40-percent increase in holiday sales over last year. But, he note e-trade still represents only 10 to 13 percent of overall holiday sales.