U.S. shoppers spent only 3 percent more during the 2012 holiday season than they did a year earlier, the National Retail Federation said on Tuesday, citing economic uncertainty for tempering consumers' enthusiasm.
The NRF's data, based on U.S. government figures, fell short of the trade group's own forecast, which called for a 4.1 percent jump. In 2011, such sales rose a stronger 5.6 percent. The NRF looks at U.S. sales from November and December excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.
After a strong showing over the Thanksgiving weekend in late November, when many consumers start their Christmas shopping, their willingness to spend was dented by concerns about the sluggish pace of job recovery and the possibility of higher taxes.
"The larger impact is simply the fact that the economy has been growing slowly, employment has been growing slowly and consumers are still in a deleveraging mode," said Ira Kalish, director of global economics at Deloitte Research, noting that many Americans are giving priority to paying down their debt.
Total spending during the holiday season rose to $579.8 billion, the NRF said.