Note #s comparison vs. last year, which was down miserably due to 9/11. Wally World wuz packed in my burb, but other retailers looked just slightly above average. Since my wife, children and legions of friends are avid shoppers (there is nothing else to do in Dallas besides shop and eat), they say that everyone's done a lot of their shopping already (shortened season). Everyone's richest friend is maxed out on credit, too (credit card honesty is the modern-day confessional catharsis, you know).
All that matters is the reaction. December markets are ALWAYS about shopping.