A deep recession, severe winter weather and five fewer shopping days combined to create the most challenging sales environment in years for the nations retailers. According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales for December (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) declined 2.2% unadjusted over last year and decreased 1.4% seasonally-adjusted from November.
As a result, initial 2008 holiday sales, which combine November and December sales, declined 2.8% to $447.5 billion. Holiday sales in 2007 were $460.2 billion. This represents the first decline in holiday sales since NRF started forecasting and tracking the numbers in 1995.
There were very few seasonal bright spots in December. Among them, Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores were up 0.7% unadjusted from a year ago, but down 0.4% from seasonally adjusted month-to-month.