NRF Says Holiday Retail Sales Fell 2.8%

It’s official: Holiday 2008 was a disaster for U.S. retailers. The National Retail Federation said on Wednesday holiday retail sales fell 2.8% to $447.5 billion. This is the first decline posted since the NRF began tracking such figures in 1995.

The trade organization in September said it expected holiday sales (retail industry sales for the November-December period) to increase 2.2% this year to $470.4 billion. That would have been the weakest sales growth in six years.

But the economy worsened considerably since September, thanks to more layoffs and investment losses, and consumers put the brakes on spending. And last-minute holiday shopping was hampered by pre-Christmas winter storms.