The headline to Emily Kaiser’s Reuter’s wire story is “Retailers Face Worst Holiday in Decades,” and it reports that US stores are “reeling from a lackluster holiday season that is forecast to be the weakest in more than 30 years.” As usual, analysts are quoted, dire consequences are predicted.

The scary impression given is that sales this holiday season will run lower than in the pit of the 1974-1975 recession, when the economy was not only in deep trouble but far smaller than it is today. But in the third paragraph it is finally revealed that exactly what may be the weakest in more than 30 years is not sales, but growth in sales.

In a weekly report, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and UBS Warburg forecast holiday sales in November and December would be up an anemic 1.5 percent over last year, the smallest gain since the banks began tracking weekly sales in 1970.

We’re not talking even about negative growth — just smaller growth than some expected. The analysts quoted are forecasting 1.5% growth in holiday sales, which is defined as “the smallest gain since… 1970″ [emphasis added].

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