Retailers are in for a somewhat less merry holiday season this year, according to a forecast by consultancy Deloitte that predicts a 3.5 percent to 4 percent increase in sales during the industry’s most crucial selling period, compared with a 5.2 percent uptick in 2014.

While more people have jobs, home values have increased and gas prices have remained low, Deloitte’s retail practice leader, Rod Sides, said shoppers still do not feel they have disposable income to burn.

“From a retail perspective, the first couple of quarters of the year were pretty tough, and we’re just starting to see that turn the corner,” Sides said. “So I think what happens is there’s a little bit of a lingering effect in terms of how people are feeling … about how much they can go spend.”

Deloitte predicts that total sales for retailers – excluding the motor vehicle and gas categories – will be between $961 billion and $965 billion from November to January.

Deloitte expects a stronger sales increase in the online shopping category of 8.5 percent to 9 percent. Sides said this figure reflects the way customers shift between online and brick-and-mortar shopping.

Many shoppers, for example, are taking advantage of “buy online, pick up in store” options, while plenty of others are researching a purchase online but actually buy it later in the store.

“We’re finding that those lines are blurring, and I think this is just now retail business as normal,” Sides said.

So while the digital channel continues to be of critical importance to retailers, the number of shoppers actually closing the deal online might not be growing as rapidly as expected.

Sides predicts that promotions will be as robust as ever this year, and will probably start early. “We learned our lesson a couple of years ago in that we had some really bad weather just before the holidays,” Sides said.

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