updated 1/2/2008 5:10:37 PM ET 2008-01-02T22:10:37

Post-Christmas shopping gave retailers some relief, but the 2007 holiday season is turning out to be tepid, according to the latest report released Wednesday.

The International Council of Shopping Centers' weekly sales index slipped 0.2 percent for the week ended Saturday compared to the previous week and rose 2.3 percent compared to the year-ago period. The index is based on same-store sales, or sales at stores opened at least a year, and are considered the industry standard for a retailer's health.

The nation's retailers are slated to report their final same-store sales figures for December on Jan. 10, which include another week of post-holiday shopping.

But Michael P. Niemira, chief economist of the shopping centers council, says current same-store sales for December continue to fall short of the 1.5 percent same-store sales growth originally expected. That means that same-store sales growth for the November-December period could be about 2.2 percent, a bit below the modest 2.5 percent projection.

"The holiday season was pretty slow and pretty promotional," said Niemira, noting that business is in line with low sales expectations.

After a robust start to the holiday season, many stores struggled with disappointing business in December, and a shopping surge in the final days came too late to offset the overall weakness of the month.

That's why stores are counting even more on consumers returning to stores during the post-Christmas season to cash in their gift cards and buy discounted holiday goods and new merchandise to help recoup the shortfall. Stores don't record sales of gift cards until they are redeemed.

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