Shoppers waylaid by "fiscal cliff" fears and winter storms spent sparingly in the months before Christmas, according to new data, but retailers are still holding out for a post-holiday bump.
From Oct. 28 through Dec. 24, sales of items such as clothing, home goods and electronics rose 0.7% compared with the same period last year, according to the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report.
In 2011, spending rose 2%, more than double this year's pace. The last two months' performance, which also includes online sales, was the worst since 2008, according to the report.
But there's hope, according to MasterCard, which found that shoppers out in force after Christmas account for 15% of the month's sales.
Retail sales also rose 0.7% in the week ended Dec. 22 from a week earlier, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Shopping increased 3.2% from the same week in 2011.
The group blamed the anemic performance in part on unfavorable weather. But last-minute shopping from the two days before Christmas could boost sales, it said. And revenue from online sales and layaway programs may add an additional lift.
Still, though the council predicted that retail sales at businesses open at least a year will improve 3% in November and December, that's still slower than the 3.3% advance in 2011.