December 30, 2008

Retail season weakest in 38 years

Retail sales through the holiday shopping season were the weakest in 38 years, the International Council of Shopping Centers reported Tuesday.

The 2008 recession, widespread heavy discounting and adverse pre-holiday weather all coalesced to produced the weakest holiday season since at least 1970, the organization's weekly sales report said.

During the week ending Dec. 30, sales were down 1.5 percent from the previous week and down 1.8 percent from the same week a year ago, the report said.

The procrastinating holiday shopper met with heavy snowfall in the last days head of Christmas, which further weakened last week's sales pace, the report said.

With colder than average temperatures, snowfall was 77 percent more than a year ago and 143 percent above average, ICSC reported.

Temperatures warmed the day after Christmas in the Eastern United States, but the only silver lining in the retail news was lower gasoline prices, which fell for the 15th consecutive week to a national average of $1.613 per gallon on Dec. 29, the report said.