After weeks of hoping for a Christmas miracle, worldwide retail chains confirmed today that they suffered one of the lousiest holiday shopping seasons in decades.
Matters were made worse by the absence of one S. Claus, longtime resident of the North Pole and key player in the typically robust flurry of money exchange at year's end.
But this Christmas was anything but typical.
Sales in November and December are closely watched because they account for 25 to 40 percent of many retailers' annual sales, according to the International Retail Federation, an industry group that monitors how effectively consumer pockets are being picked around the globe.
Most stores reported sales declines, including the world's largest retailers, but nothing could counter what amounted to a boycott of the entire holiday season by Santa Claus.
The dismal lack of gift-giving and drastic drop in per-gift spending that resulted were the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, according to the IRF.
This view is shared by children around the world.
"This Christmas really sucked, " affirmed one dimple-cheeked preteen cherub as he lounged in the post-holiday quietus of a mall food court, texting his friends. "I mean, all I got were some lousy hand knitted sweaters from my old Aunt Martha and a couple of $10 gift cards to shitty stores."
When reminded of Santa's 'Good-Bad' clause and asked if he had perhaps been 'Bad' in 2008, the boy shrugged. "No worse than last year, man.
"And I was really counting on that Lamborghini."
When tracked down in California by reporters, however, Santa Claus was indifferent to the gift-giving depression.
"Of course I skivved off this Christmas, have you seen the petrol prices? Worse than that, my investment portfolio?
"I sat down and took a look at the situation back in October and, well, I just couldn't see any way to meet my contractual obligations and not declare bankruptcy this year.
"And how would that look, Santa in the 'red' and on the dole?
"So I said: Fuck it, I'm going to Disneyland."