According to MarketWatch:
"Stung by weak demand and falling prices, U.S. seasonally adjusted retail sales plunged 2.7% in December, the Commerce Department estimated Wednesday.
Excluding the 0.7% decline in auto sales, retail sales recorded their biggest drop since record-keeping began in the early 1990s, falling 3.1%. Excluding gasoline and autos, sales fell 1.5%, the largest drop since September 2001.
Retail sales have fallen for six months in a row, the longest decline on record. Sales in October and November were revised lower.
Chain stores have reported further weakening in early January as the recession began its second year."
Douglas A McIntyre