Sales at U.S. retailers fizzled in December and posted the biggest decline in nine years, according to a long-delayed government report.
Retail sales sank 1.2% in December, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday. It’s the largest drop since September 2009, a few months after the end of the Great Recession.
Economists polled by MarketWatch expected sales to be flat.
Sales fell in every retail category except auto dealers and home centers. Auto sales rose 1% and home-center sales edged up 0.3%.
Sales fell 5.1% at gas stations, but that was not unexpected. Gasoline prices have been falling since last fall.
What’s was surprising was a 3.9% reported decline in sales at internet sellers. That would mark the sharpest drop since November 2008 — the middle of the last recession.
By all industry accounts, online merchants led by Amazon and eBay reaped big sales gains.