Worst Christmas shopping season since 2008

Washington played the Grinch that stole Christmas this year as the partisan impasse over the budget deficit instilled fear that the nation will fall over the “fiscal cliff,” dashing consumer holiday spirits and spending.

Shoppers walk past an H&M location, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, in New York. This holiday season is shaping up to be the weakest since the country was in the middle of a deep recession in 2008. That not only shows that stores misread Americans' willingness to spend during this period of economic uncertainty. It also could indicate that the days of throngs of shoppers spending thousands of dollars willy nilly on holiday gifts may be long gone. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Shoppers walk past an H&M location, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, in New York. This holiday season is shaping up to be the weakest since the country was in the middle of a deep recession in 2008. That not only shows that stores misread Americans' willingness to spend during this period of economic uncertainty. It also could indicate that the days of throngs of shoppers spending thousands of dollars willy nilly on holiday gifts may be long gone. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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