Retail sales plummeted last month ahead of the holiday shopping season—which threatens to be the worst in decades, the New York Times reports. The downturn ran the gamut from upscale department stores to shops like the Gap. Neiman Marcus saw a 28% drop compared with the same month last year. Sales fell 20% at Abercrombie & Fitch, and Saks sales plunged 16%.
Fears of unemployment appear to be driving the shopping drop-off, and analysts warn of a wave of bankruptcies after the holidays. Amid the downturn, companies are rushing to heavily discount their merchandise. “What’s happening is the retailer is saying, ‘Please just come in. We’ll pay you to shop,’” said an analyst.