December 26th, 2008
11:59 AM ET

Financial Dispatch: Retail's Rough Ride

Gene Bloch
Managing Editor-CNN New York

So how rough was the holiday season for retailers? Pretty rough according to early figures from Mastercard’s SpendingPulse, which estimated sales declined year-over-year by 5.5% to 8%. A good part of that decline in total sales can be blamed on plunging gas prices, but any drop is bad news.

In a separate survey from ShopperTrak, the key Saturday before Christmas, or “Super Saturday” as some call it, saw a scant half percent increase compared to 2007 levels, while foot traffic was down 17%.

Retailers want some help from the federal government next year. The National Retail Federation is seeking a series of sales tax-exempt shopping days added to Obama’s planned economic stimulus package.

Three periods in 2009 during March, July and October would be tax-free, and the federal government would reimburse states for lost tax revenue. The NRF estimates total savings would be $20 billion, and $175 per family.

Gas prices continue to dip – today marks the seventh consecutive decrease. AAA reports regular unleaded gas fell 6-tenths of a cent to $1.64 a gallon, a fresh 4-1/2 year low.

Filed under: Finance • Gene Bloch
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