Retail sales grow at weakest pace since 2008

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NORTH CAROLINA —

Holiday retail sales this year grew at the weakest pace since 2008.

MasterCard Advisors Spending Pulse said sales in the two months before Christmas increased 0.7 percent, compared with last year.

Several analysts had expected holiday sales to grow 3 to 4 percent.

However, retailers still have time to make up lost ground.

The final week of December accounts for about 15 percent of the month's sales, said Michael McNamara, vice president for Research and Analysis at MasterCard Advisors Spending Pulse.

The Spending Pulse data released Tuesday, which captures sales from Oct. 28 through Dec. 24 across all payment methods, is the first major snapshot of holiday retail sales.

Next week, a clearer picture can emerge, as retailers like Macy's and Target report revenue from stores open for at least a year.

That sales measure is widely watched in the retail industry because it excludes revenue from stores that recently opened or closed, which can be volatile.