NEW YORK (AP) -- Sparse crowds at malls and "50 percent off" signs at The Gap, AnnTaylor and other stores give a clue as to how the holiday season is going.
This is shaping up to be the most discount-driven holiday season since the country was in a deep recession. It's also one of the most disappointing for stores.
Sales are up 2 percent to $176.7 billion from Nov. 1 through Sunday, according to data obtained by The Associated Press from ShopperTrak.
That's a slower pace than expected: ShopperTrak is forecasting that sales will rise 2.4 percent to $265 billion for the two-month stretch.
The modest growth comes as the amount of discounting at stores is up 13 percent from last year - the highest level since 2008, according to BMO Capital Markets.