* Holiday sales seen down 1 pct to up 1 pct - study
* Careful inventory, need for lower prices to remain
SEATTLE - U.S. retailers could see sales in the 2009 holiday season decline from last year's dismal results or show only a slight increase, even in the best scenario, according to a new forecast.
Retail sales this holiday season are likely to range from up 1 percent to down 1 percent from last year, according to market research firm Global Hunter Securities LLC.
Last year's sales showed a decline of 7.6 percent, the firm said, citing various sources.
The forecast, one of the earliest leading up to the key shopping season, takes into account the three-month period of Halloween on Oct. 31, 2009 through Jan. 31, 2010.
Last year, retailers faced the toughest season in nearly four decades as consumers hunkered down in the face of the Wall Street crisis and recession. As demand remains lackluster, retailers have cut inventory.
Lower inventory has become a mantra of sorts for retailers, and there is little reason to believe that retailers would begin to order goods more enthusiastically, said Richard Hastings, consumer strategist at Global Hunter Securities.
Inventory demand in the third and fourth quarters is expected to drop 7.5 percent, he said.
But suppliers could see a silver lining in this year's calendar.
With 28 days from Black Friday -- the day after the Nov. 26 U.S. Thanksgiving that kicks off the holiday shopping season -- to Christmas Eve, the 2009 shopping season is a day longer than last year's. That means retailers might have to replenish their merchandise stock late in the season, Hastings said. (Reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)