U.S. holiday retail sales this year were the weakest since 2008, when the nation was in a deep recession. In 2012, the shopping season was disrupted by bad weather and consumers’ rising uncertainty about the economy.
A report that tracks spending on popular holiday goods, the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, said Tuesday that sales in the two months before Christmas increased 0.7%, compared with last year. Many analysts had expected holiday sales to grow 3%-4%.
Shoppers were buffeted this year by a string of events that made them less likely to spend: superstorm Sandy and other bad weather; the distraction of the presidential election, and grief about the shooting of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn. The numbers also show how Washington’s current budget impasse is trickling down to Main Street and unsettling consumers.
In the end, even steep last-minute discounts weren’t enough to get people into stores, said Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at the market research firm NPD.