(By Balachander) The National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that holiday retail sales rose 3.0 percent, yet came in below forecast as economic uncertainties had a visible impact on consumer spending.
Total holiday retail sales grew to $579.8 billion, while NRF projected an increase of 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion.
The world's largest retail trade association said retail sales last month rose 0.8 percent from November and grew 2.1 percent year-over-year.
"For over six months, we've been saying that the fiscal cliff and economic uncertainty could impact holiday sales," NRF CEO Matthew Shay said.
"We can't expect consumers to continue to carry the burden of growing our economy — Washington must put political differences aside and do what it takes to get our country growing again and Americans back to work," Shay added.
Non-store holiday sales gained 11.1 percent. Shop.org had forecast online holiday sales to increase 12 percent to as much as $96 billion in the months of November and December.
The U.S. Department of Commerce earlier today reported that December retail sales and core retail sales rose 0.5 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. Retail sales topped economists expectations of a 0.2 percent rise, while core sales came in line. Core retail sales measures the change in the total value of sales at the retail level in the U.S., excluding automobiles.
"Heading into 2013, consumers could continue to think twice about their discretionary purchases as they face decreases in their paychecks and other concerns with their household budgets," said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.
More shoppers spent more at the cash register during the 2012 holiday season than they did the previous year, according to ShopperTrak, an analyzer of retail foot traffic.
The retail sales and traffic holiday forecast is a key marker of the nation's economic health.