Top retail analyst Dana Telsey isn't putting lipstick on this pig.
"This is going to be a bad Christmas," she told CNBC. "We've never had so many promotions, so many retailers having trouble, with the greatest amount of discounts we've seen going into the holiday season."
Those extensive promotions may have given some observers a false impression about the pace of shopping this year.
"If you were at Saks on Tuesday or Wednesday, there was an hour wait just to get in the shoe department," she noted.
Telsey and other observers are jittery about an unprecedented decline in year-over-year sales.
"Since 1985, the worst Christmas that we've had was a little bit less than 1 percent of sales gains," she said. "This could be slightly negative."
As for the traditional kickoff of the holiday shopping season, she's stopping short of predicting disaster.
"It'll still be a decent Black friday weekend, but compared to what we've had in the past, certainly it's not at the same levels."
Not all retailers are shaping up as losers this year.
"Walmart is winning this holiday season, along with the dollar stores like Dollar Tree," she said. "You'll also probably see some of the 'off-pricers' have better brands in there, like TJX and Ross (Stores), than what they've had in the past."