BY BOB HOLT
U. S. retailers learned a hard lesson this Christmas - it’s hard for consumers to spend money they don’t have.
Early reports have found that the Ghost of Christmas Past hit the stores tis holiday season, as holiday spending reached its lowest levels since the lowest points of the recession in 2008.
An Associated Press story on Fox News reported that according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, retail sales between October 28 and December 24 rose by 0.7 percent from 2011, while many analysts expected the numbers to rise by 3 to 4 percent.
Retail sales fell between 2 and 4 percent in 2008. Another research company, ShopperTrak, reported that sales in November and December were up between 4 percent and 5 percent, considered a healthy holiday shopping season.
Analysts blamed a number of reasons for the decline, according to an Associated Press report on ABC News, beginning with Hurricane Sandy in October. The Northeast and mid-Atlantic states make up about 24 percent of retail sales in the U.S. Then the “fiscal cliff” talk got into high gear in November, and analysts noted that many shoppers were affected by the Connecticut school shootings.
SpendingPulse said the week after Christmas accounts for around 15 percent of December’s sales.
Burt Flickinger of New York’s Strategic Resource Group, said stores hurt themselves by not offering deep discounts in the three days before Christmas. He told Bloomberg, “Instead of having 50-to-70-percent off that the retailers had on Black Friday, it was buy one, get 50 percent off. Shoppers didn’t see the bargains. And the shoppers are bypassing the, mall-based stores to shop at Amazon.com and other online providers.”