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Retail sales fizzle in December, holiday drop to blame

WASHINGTON — 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 says December retail sales dropped 1.2 percent from November. They were up 2.3 percent from December 2017.

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

Nonstore 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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