There likely will be little cheer for retailers over the holidays this year.
Analysts caution that it could be the worst Christmas shopping season in years as a slumping economy and a tight credit market lead many Americans to scale back spending.
"My shopping habits have changed drastically," said Debbie Jarvis, a homemaker in New York City. "When the economy was good, I used to enjoy Christmas shopping. In the past, I would have started shopping already. I would be purchasing decorations for the house and gifts. Everyone in the house would receive more than one gift.
"Now I am going to wait for the sales and limit the amount. The lucky person to get a gift may just be my granddaughter, since my kids are adults."
'Bah, humbug' holidays
Analysts aren't talking about a mere downturn in spending. They're talking about a wipeout.
The explanation isn't complicated. Consumers just don't have the cash.
"Higher energy and food prices are making a dent in consumers' wallets, and the dramatic drop in home mortgage refinancings has dried up a substantial source of discretionary funds," Carl Steidtmann, the chief economist with Deloitte Research, said in his holiday forecast.
Steidtmann also mentioned "rising unemployment claims and a volatile stock market" as additional factors likely to make the holiday season challenging.
The National Retail Federation's outlook is a little less grim, but it's still bad. The group expects 2008 holiday sales to rise 2.2%, to $470.4 billion -- well below the 10-year holiday average of 4.4% growth. That would make it the slowest growth since 2002, when holiday sales rose 1.3%.
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"We expect consumers to be frugal this season and less willing to splurge," the retail federation's chief economist, Rosalind Wells, said in her forecast.
Not all retailers will suffer
Consumers and retailers from all demographics and sectors have been hit by the economic slowdown, but there are still a few retailers that could do well.
"The deep discounters, the dollar stores -- places that people may not have frequented as much -- are probably going to see a lift," said Stacy Janiak, a retail analyst with Deloitte.
"I think everyone else is going to be fighting to demonstrate what value they can bring to the consumer," Janiak said.