Keeping Track: when we spend

December sales traditionally boost the quarter

Tired of the word "uncertainty" yet? Pollsters, who love a nice, clean statistic, are now at odds over how retail stores will fare this holiday season. According to two recent surveys, American shoppers plan to spend either 4.4 percent more, or 37 percent less, than they did last year.

This year, sales for the post-Thanksgiving weekend - traditionally the start of holiday shopping - were off 1.5 percent from last year, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Apparel, books, and jewelry fell; home furnishings, footwear, and home entertainment crept up.

Retail has its monthly patterns. A look at 2000:

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