ATLANTA (AP) -- The malls may have been crowded, but that doesn't mean Christmas shoppers have been spending at the same pace as in previous years.

An analyst at market research firm NPD is estimating that customer traffic over the weekend was in line with the same time a year ago -- but Marshal Cohen says shoppers appear to be spending less.

He says there have been 'just too many distractions' -- including storms, the school shootings and the fiscal cliff.

Karen Edge of Norfolk thinks people are cautiously optimistic about 2013. 'I just hope they can make some good decisions in Washington and let us all get through it economically safe.'

The firm ShopperTrak has even cut its forecast for holiday spending to 2.5 percent growth, down from 3.3 percent.

Retailers could have cause for concern, after counting on the last weekend before Christmas to make up for lost dollars earlier in the season.

The latest figures from ShoperTrak say sales fell 4.3 percent for the week ending December 15.

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