Retail sales fell sharply in September as consumers shunned department stores, auto showrooms and shopping malls, ratcheting back spending for a third consecutive month.
Last month's 1.2 percent decline in retail sales was the sharpest drop in years, and it came in the heart of the back-to-school shopping season, traditionally the busiest time of the year for retailers outside of the December holidays.
"There is almost nothing positive to say about these figures," Rob Carnell, an economist at ING Bank, wrote in a note.
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