Friday, Dec 26, 2008
U.S. retail sales fell as much as 4 percent this holiday season as consumers limited purchases to necessities and cut back on clothing, electronics and jewelry, according to SpendingPulse.
Spending figures are the lowest since MasterCard Advisors started tracking data in 2002 to provide the SpendingPulse service, said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis. He estimates sales, excluding autos and gasoline, fell 2 percent to 4 percent from Nov. 1 through yesterday.
Consumers facing a recession, tightening credit and the highest unemployment rate in 15 years shortened their gift lists and spent less. Retailers including Macy’s Inc. and AnnTaylor Stores Corp. responded by increasing markdowns, which stand to hurt profit margins in what may be the weakest holiday season in four decades.
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“Overall this has been one of the most challenging holiday seasons on record,” McNamara said today in an interview.
The SpendingPulse figures follow forecasts of falling sales from other industry groups. Sales at stores open at least a year may drop as much as 2 percent in November and December, the International Council of Shopping Centers said on Dec. 23, more than the previously projected 1 percent decline.
From Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, women’s clothing sales dropped 23 percent and men’s fell 14 percent, according to SpendingPulse.