Shoppers wait in front of stores opening their doors for Black Friday sales, price cuts reach to 70 percent, on Thanksgiving Day this year on November 29, 2013 at Fifth Avenue in New York City, United States. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK (AP) -- Sparse crowds at malls and "50 percent off" signs at The Gap, AnnTaylor and other stores give a clue as to how the holiday season is going.
This is shaping up to be the most discount-driven holiday season since the country was in a deep recession. It's also one of the most disappointing for stores.
Sales are up 2 percent to $176.7 billion from Nov. 1 through Sunday, according to data obtained by The Associated Press from ShopperTrak.
That's a slower pace than expected: ShopperTrak is forecasting that sales will rise 2.4 percent to $265 billion for the two-month stretch.
The modest growth comes as the amount of discounting at stores is up 13 percent from last year - the highest level since 2008, according to BMO Capital Markets.