More than two thirds (68%) of retailers will be hiring more seasonal workers this holiday season than in 2009, according to the second annual retail outlook study released by small business lender CIT Group Inc. 

In addition, compared to last year, over half (57%) expect to stock more inventory; more than two thirds (69%) say they will advertise more aggressively and nearly three quarters (72%) expect they will discount more.

The research report, “U.S. Small Business and Middle Market Outlook 2010: Retailers and their Suppliers-Smarter. Leaner. Cautiously Optimistic,” examines how middle market retailers and their suppliers have weathered the recession and gauges their outlook for the future. The report was prepared in association with Forbes Insights and focused on companies with annual revenues up to $1 billion.

“While retailers remain cautious about the future, many are preparing for a busy holiday season,” said Jon Lucas, Executive Vice President and Chief Sales Officer of Trade Finance at CIT. “Consumers today are very value-conscious and retailers are increasing their advertising and discounting to get them in the door.”

The information in this report is based on the results of two surveys and a series of one-on-one interviews conducted by Forbes Insights in July and August 2010. In the first survey, 111 executives and financial decision makers at middle market retailers were surveyed.

All companies had revenues of $25 million to $1 billion. Respondents represented a broad range of retail segments including specialty apparel, consumer electronics, appliances, sporting goods, convenience stores, housewares, and discount chains. All those surveyed had senior-level titles (including CEO, COO, CFO, VP) and functional responsibility for finance, strategy and business development, or general management.

In the second survey, an additional 150 executives and financial decision makers at suppliers to the middle market retail sector were surveyed. Here, revenue ranges were from $2 million to $1 billion with 27% coming in at under $100 million. These suppliers represent a broad range of segments, including apparel and accessories, consumer electronics, housewares, footwear, home furnishings, and other suppliers. All those surveyed had senior-level titles (including CEO, COO, CFO, VP) and/or functional responsibility for a business unit or department. Nearly two-thirds were either a CEO or owner.