Retail sales in the United States fell 2.7% in December as holiday spending slumped.
The Commerce Department says total retail sales fell to a seasonally adjusted $US343.2 billion, taking sales for all of 2008 down 0.1%.
The extent of the fall was more than expected.
Sales in department stores fell 2.3% in December after a 1.7% gain in November.
Clothing sales dropped 2.5% in December after rising 0.1% in November. Sales of sporting goods were also down 0.4% last month following a 2.1% increase in November.
Both categories of goods are typically bought as Christmas presents.
The data is the latest in a series suggesting that a year-long recession is deepening. Sales in November fell by a revised 2.5%.