As reported in the New York Times:
The nation’s stores appear to have fared better this holiday shopping season than last year, according to early figures reported on Sunday. Major retailing categories had modest sales increases, while others fell slightly but still showed improvement. Over all, retail sales from November through Dec. 24 rose 3.6 percent from last year, according to SpendingPulse, an information service of MasterCard Advisors that estimates sales for all forms of payment, including cash, checks and credit cards. That number was helped this year by an extra shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Adjusting the results for that extra day cuts the retailing industry’s sales increase to about 1 percent, in line with what many retailing professionals expected.
While the numbers do not suggest a turnaround for the industry, they signal an improvement over last year’s 2.3 percent sales decline. Despite that promising news, some consumers interviewed in stores over the weekend said they were exchanging their Christmas presents for everyday necessities and were continuing to curb their spending — suggesting that America’s retailers were still recovering from the deep economic recession.
A clearer picture of consumer spending over the holiday season will emerge in January, when major chain stores report their December sales figures.