Online Holiday Sales Boom For Retailers

Morning Business Memo:

You may not be ready, but the retail industry is putting the finishing touches on its plans for the holiday shopping season. A big consumer trend is almost certain to continue this fall with online sales taking a bigger share of retail dollars. "We're predicting 15-17 percent growth outside of the stores themselves," says Alison Kenney Paul, vice chairman and U.S. Retail & Distribution leader at Deloitte consulting. "Online via mobile via catalog - that's where the real robust growth is going to continue to come from." The firm's annual holiday season shopping survey forecasts only a modest increase in sales compared with last year. Sales at many stores could be flat, but "retailers are really using mobile communications as a mainstream marketing tool much more than they have in the past," says Paul. Shoppers will spend on big gifts but may cut back elsewhere. "Economic headwinds nagging consumers this fall include stubbornly high gasoline prices that continue to creep up and soft housing and job markets," said Carl Steidtmann, Deloitte's chief economist.

The US Postal Service is deeply in the red and on the brink of default for a second time. Postmaster General Patrick Donahue says his agency will be forced to miss a $5.6 billion payment due to the Treasury on Sunday. For more than a year the Postal Service has been asking Congress to let it make cuts such as no more Saturday mail delivery and smaller payments for future retiree health benefits. But there has been approval so far, and Congress is not in session until after the November election. Donahue said the post office will hit a low point in cash next month but avert immediate bankruptcy due to a series of retirement incentives, employee reductions and boosts in productivity among remaining staff that saved nearly $2 billion over the past year.

Britain's top financial regulator says bankers found guilty of fixing a key international lending rate could go to prison. Marvin Wheatley of the Financial Standards Authority has laid out a 10 point plan to overhaul LIBOR, the rate used as a baseline for trillions of dollars in loans. "Society has lost confidence in banks, in finance, in the whole system," he told BBC Radio. Barclays bank agreed to pay a $453 million fine to US and British agencies after admitting it had submitted false information for LIBOR. Barclays' CEO Bob Diamond lost his job and was the most high-profile casualty of the scandal.

They live to fight another day! Blackberry maker Research in Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) posted another big loss but it wasn't as bad as expected. RIM shares gained 18 percent in premarket trading. Blackberry sales rose slightly in the latest quarter mostly because of improvement overseas. RIM says it shipped 7.4 million BlackBerry smartphones in the quarter, down from 10.6 million last year. Some analysts predicted RIM would ship about 6.4 million as the company prepares to launch new BlackBerrys deemed critical to its survival.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio