COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Retail researchers expect sales to be up this holiday shopping season for Ohio businesses.

However, the forecast by the University of Cincinnati Economics Center and Ohio Council of Retail Merchants indicates uneven sales growth around the state, with the Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati metro areas leading the way. Sales are projected to be up only slightly in the Youngstown region, and roughly flat in the Akron and Dayton areas.

Overall, the forecast projects $14.9 billion in retail sales for November-December, up 3.5 percent from the same period last year. That's slightly lower than the national forecast of a 3.9 percent increase.

Researchers also said internet sales were continuing to climb in popularity, making up about $1 billion in Ohio. Among consumers, 47 percent expect to purchase items online this holiday season while 44 percent expect to shop at discount/value department stores.

"Nearly half of consumers are going to purchase something online and because of that the state of Ohio and its local governments are going to lose an estimated $70 million in sales tax revenue," said Jeff Rexhausen, a senior research associate at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center.

In addition, the Economics Center estimates that about 19 percent of this Internet spending will come at the expense of Ohio retailers, who will lose $188 million in holiday sales this year as a result of consumers choosing Internet retailers over traditional brick and mortar retailers. The Economics Center attributes some of the increase in the number of Ohio consumers buying online to the recent change in sales tax, from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent.

Data shows that during that through June, retail numbers were up each month compared to a year ago. Lower gas prices are also helping boost sales.

A forecast from PNC Bank expects holiday sales to be up 3.0 to 3.5 percent from a year ago, despite a holiday shopping season that will be five days shorter than in 2012 due to a “late” Thanksgiving. However, a Huntington Bank survey found that people in southern Ohio plan to spend an average of $1,009 this year, down from last year's $1,093. About 20 percent plan to spend at local small businesses.

The highly competitive holiday shopping season that heats up this Thanksgiving week usually produces a significant chunk of the annual revenues for many retailers.

(Photo courtesy Getty Images)