This holiday retail season has been better than expected, but returns remain at a high level. The latest reports from the National Retail Federation forecast holiday sales will grow almost 4 percent this season, up from their October forecast of almost three percent. N-R-F's Kathy Grannis says they are cautiously optimistic. Grannis says they are not saying that families and consumers throw caution to the wind with their budgets this year, but they are definitely seeing what she calls, "some positive signs" among consumers in the holiday shopping season so far.

Some of the reasons cited for the big upsurge include shoppers taking full advantage of the many big discounts that have been ofered this season.

But tugging against those bright sales numbers...returns may set a record. It seems returns started going up when the economy turned sour, and they have remained high, with retalers giving back an average of 10 cents on every dollar's worth of merchandise they sell. Consumer electronics in particular are a frequently-returned item.