Shoppers were grappling with a number of issues. Superstorm Sandy, which pummeled the Northeast in late October, hurt sales in the beginning of November, as businesses and households were disrupted. Then the national election caused shoppers to delay. Consumers were also worried about tense negotiations to resolve the fiscal cliff. Congress and the White House ultimately reached a deal on Jan. 1 that prevented income taxes from rising for most households
So after a solid spending spree over the Thanksgiving weekend, sales limped along until the final days before Christmas, when stores were forced to discount more than they had planned to woo back shoppers.