Retailers across the US have reported that shoppers have been more conservative in their spending patterns, as the cost of gas at the pumps exceeds $3 dollars a gallon, retail prices continue to rise and the credit crunch continues to tighten on the back of bad home loans. Busiest time of year for cosmetic firms Unfortunately all of this comes at a time when many personal care players - particularly purveyors of luxury beauty products - are usually poised for their busiest time of the year. Indeed, some luxury fragrance manufacturers estimate that around a half of their annual sales are achieved during the holiday period. Likewise, manufacturers of luxury bath, body care and make-up products also traditionally manage to boost holiday sales by successfully marketing ever-popular gift packs. Bloomberg reported that US retail sales in key department stores in the week after Christmas rose by just 2.3 percent, the lowest growth rate in five years and one that came in at below market analysts' expectations of 2.5 percent. Macy's Kohl's and Wal-Mart said that significant discounts and the redemption of gift cards had helped to push up stores sales during the first week after Christmas, following a slow holiday season. Retail sales growth slows Retail sales for the internet were also looking slower than expected during the holiday season, with online retail information provider ComScore revealing that figures for the period from November 1 to December 27 rose by 19 percent to reach $28bn. The figures are the slowest growth for online retail sales over the past five years, and the only year where the figures have come in at under 20 percent. Indeed 2006 was a record year, showing growth of 26 percent to reach $24bn. The National Retail Federation is estimating that retail spend in the US will grow by 4 per cent in the November - December period, again the slowest growth rate in five years - while the International Council of Shopping Centers is predicting that sales for the period will grow by 2.5 percent or less.