updated 12/4/2007 2:29:48 PM ET 2007-12-04T19:29:48

After jamming stores for bargains over Thanksgiving weekend, the official start of the holiday shopping season, the nation's consumers are taking their usual break from the buying frenzy, according to two industry reports. The question is, when will consumers return to stores?

According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which tracks total sales at more than 50,000 retail outlets, sales for the week ended Saturday declined 4.4 percent from the year-ago period, representing the largest year-over-year sales decline since March.

As expected, total sales dropped 12.5 percent from the previous week, which ended Nov. 24 and included the robust Black Friday and Saturday shopping days, according to ShopperTrak. Black Friday is so named because it was historically when stores turned a profit.

"With three full weekends left before Christmas many consumers might be waiting until the last minute to wrap up their holiday spending, " said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, in a statement. But he added that retailers aren't panicking yet because there are still "plenty of good shopping days left in the 2007 season."

According to the UBS-International Council of Shopping Centers sales tally, same-store sales rose 3.1 percent for the week ended Saturday from the year-ago period, but fell 2 percent from the previous week.

Same-stores sales are sales at stores opened at least a year and are considered the key indicator of a retailer's health.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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