NEW YORK — It's official: This was a rotten holiday season for retailers.
A weak economy and strong winter storms brought retail sales down 5.5% to 8% from a year ago, according to preliminary data from SpendingPulse.
Many economists had predicted this would be the worst holiday season in decades as home prices plunged, unemployment rose and nervous consumers cut costs. Compounding retailers' problems were unexpected winter storms that snowed in would-be shoppers in places such as Seattle, Las Vegas and Boston.
When gas and auto sales are excluded from the holiday period from Nov. 1 to Wednesday, overall sales were down 2% to 4%, according to SpendingPulse, a division of MasterCard Advisors that tracks sales paid by credit card, checks and cash.