If the next six months look anything like the last six - and economists predict as much - retailers are in for even more bankruptcies, layoffs and bad news overall.

Total retail sales for everything but automobiles and gasoline next year are forecast to be less than they were in 2008, according to Moody's Economy.com.

The current 2.5 percent sales growth forecast for 2008 would already make it the worst year since at least 1993, said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics for Moody's Economy.com.

Consumers, stunned by layoffs and the loss of value in their homes and retirement accounts, have cut back on shopping, instead stashing their cash into savings accounts. And experts do not expect consumer spending - the biggest single driver of the national and regional economy - to rebound until people believe that their wallets are safe again.

"I think we'll see a continued flow of bankruptcies," he said, "probably a particular wave after the holiday season."      - Maria Panaritis