FILE- In this Dec. 24, 2018, photo a last-minute shopper scans his mobile device next to a sign marking discounts on coats at Columbia store as shoppers finish up their Christmas gift lists at the Outlet Malls in Castle Rock in Castle Rock, Colo. The On Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for December. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Humbug holidays: US retail sales drop 1.2 pct. in December

February 14, 2019 - 9:01 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. retail sales fell in December, posting the biggest drop since September 2009 and delivering more evidence that last year's holiday sales fizzled unexpectedly. Even e-commerce suffered a big setback.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that December retail sales dropped 1.2 percent from November. They were up 2.3 percent from December 2017. Total retail sales for 2018 rose 5 percent from the previous year.

Excluding gasoline station sales, which swing widely as pump prices rise and fall, retail sales dropped 0.9 percent in December.

The stock market recorded big drops in December. And a partial shutdown of the federal government began Dec. 22 at the end of the holiday shopping season.

"The shutdown came late in the month and likely had little impact on December sales, but consumer sentiment was weaker in the month amid stock market volatility," analysts at Contingent Macro Research wrote in a research report.

Non-store retailers, which include mail-order and e-commerce vendors, saw sales tumble 3.9 percent. That's the most since November 2008 in the midst of the Great Recession.

Retailers had high hopes for the 2018 holiday season. But Macy's, J.C. Penney and Kohl's last month reported disappointing holiday sales. Overall, department-store sales dropped 3.3 percent in December, the most since January 2016.

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