West Lafayette, Indiana - Holiday retail sales are on track to hit $1 trillion for the first time, according to Richard Feinberg, a Purdue University professor of retail management. The record spending would top last year's $960 billion.

Feinberg credits job growth, consumers' willingness to spend, lower unemployment and lower gas prices as positive predictors in this year's holiday sales. Retailers should expect 5-7 percent sales increases over 2014.

"Add lower consumer debt to the mix, and this season's potential is particularly strong," said Feinberg.

There's good news for independent shop owners, too. Smaller stores are maximizing technology to attract shoppers with email and social media promotion. The savviest retailers also are implementing "shop small" branding efforts, like the annual Small Business Saturday (slated for Nov. 28). This gives mom-and-pop shops the same multichannel opportunities that larger retailers leverage, Feinberg said. 

Trends to watch in the 2015 holiday retail season:

* "Star Wars" merchandise and Apple products will continue to be the most in-demand items contributing to this year’s spending.

* Mobile devices, tablets and smart phones continue to grow as methods of purchase. Depending on a retailer's target market this can be up to 50 percent of purchases.

* Historically, online sales have accounted for 9 percent of all spending. This may be the year that online sales exceed 10 percent of all holiday spending for the first time. However, websites influence 60 percent of all holiday purchases. Consumers search online and then spend in stores.

* Retailers with the most likelihood of success are multichannel retailers who have store, Internet and catalog methods of sales.

* Most holiday spending occurs two weeks prior to Christmas Day.