Initial sales reports from U.S. retailers have been mixed at the beginning of the important Christmas holiday shopping season.

A national shopping research group, ShopperTrak RCT corp., reported Friday's total sales at $8 billion, down about .9 percent from last year. Sales had been projected to rise by about four percent.

Retailers rely on the first few days after the Thanksgiving holiday as a key time to boost overall sales for the year. They offer deep discounts and special deals to draw consumers shopping for presents for the annual gift-giving season.

Sales figures were not down for all U.S. retailers. Discount store chain Wal-Mart reported sales for the month of November were up 4.3 percent from last year.

Analysts examine store receipts at this time of year for clues about the overall strength of the US economy.

Some information for this report provided by AP.