- Associated Press - Thursday, November 26, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - An organization representing Bay State merchants is optimistic about the holiday season.

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts is forecasting a 6.5 percent increase in store sales during the months of November and December. The holiday sales period unofficially begins in earnest on “Black Friday.”

The prediction was based on a survey of 3,500 members of the trade group.

Massachusetts retailers posted a 3.4 percent increase in holiday sales last year, and there have been five consecutive year-over-year gains during the period.

The association’s president, Jon Hurst, said the 2015 forecast is fueled by high levels of consumer confidence, lower unemployment and the lowest gas prices in years.

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