Research firm ShopperTrak is predicting that retail traffic in the upcoming holiday season could fall by as much as 9.9% and that sales will rise by just 0.1% - both record lows.

"Due to numerous factors that retailers can't control, 2008 has been a challenging year and it seems this pattern will continue throughout the crucial holiday shopping season," said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak.

"Currently we're anticipating the lowest retail sales and total US traffic numbers we've seen since we started compiling this data in 2001, which will most likely leave retailers scrambling to entice consumers into their stores early and often during the holidays."

Based on data from more than 50,000 mall and retail locations, the company is forecasting a 12.1% drop in total US foot traffic and a 0.6% fall in retail sales in November.

In December, the company anticipates an 8.1% decline in total US foot traffic and a 0.6% rise in retail sales.

This compares with 2007 when holiday retail sales rose 2.5% but total US traffic fell 2.7%.

Retailers this year have been hit by what the company describes as a "perfect storm" of rising gasoline prices, the collapse of the financial markets, and the distraction of the presidential election.

The 2008 holiday shopping season will also be shorter than usual, with only 27 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas - effectively eliminating one full shopping weekend.