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Where are the shoppers? Blame Congress

Kevin Winter | Getty Images

Although the prolonged shutdown has ended, its effects continue to ripple through the economy far beyond employee furloughs.

Retail store traffic fell an average 7.3 percent each week of the shutdown compared with the same time period last year, ShopperTrak reported Friday.

The area around Washington faced an even more drastic decline of 11.4 percent in the week of Oct. 6-12 versus the same week last year, the analytics group found.

"This time of year a certain number of people really like the Halloween cards, and I found that was definitely cut back," said Suprabha Beckjord, owner of a 30-year-old gift shop, Transcendence-Perfection-Bliss, near the National Zoo.

(Read more: Has consumer spending gone to the dogs?)

While people enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather during the shutdown, not many wanted to spend money, according to Beckjord.

"Quite a few people came into the store to buy one or two cards, but not the other things they might have wanted," she said.

The shutdown also gave consumers time to clean their closets and scout out ways to make or save money.

Carmen Lopez estimated a 10-percent increase in customers and sales at her Current Boutique consignment stores in the Washington area.

"I feel like we had more customers come in the store, and with the sudden change of seasons, sales did not decrease," Lopez said.

Larger purchases did not take much of a hit.

Guf Saoud, owner of Z Futons and Furniture in Washington, said he did not see any effect on his business.

And Columbus, Ohio, was evidently too far from federal influence to feel the shutdown's impact.

"We certainly have not seen anything," said Josh Quinn, owner of the local boutique Tigertree.

(Read more: Shoppers slash holiday spending plans amid crisis)

But by the numbers, retail is struggling nationwide.

Year-over-year retail store shopper traffic was 5 percent lower in the week of Sept. 22-Sept. 28 leading up to the shutdown. Sept. 15-21 was 4.7 percent lower than the year-earlier period.

Compared with 2012, store foot traffic nationwide fell 7.5 percent the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 5 and 7.1 percent Oct. 6-12, the ShopperTrak report showed.

"Wednesday's agreement, which also authorizes retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees, holds promise for a resurgence in shopper activity," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. "However, we expect that it will take some time and revised strategies for retailers to recover from the impact the government shutdown had on sales and store traffic."

—By Evelyn Cheng, Special to CNBC

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