Holiday 2008 sales declined 2.8% compared to the previous year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the first decline in holiday sales since NRF started tracking the figures in 1995.

Total holiday sales, which combine November and December, were $447.5 billion compared to $460.2 billion in 2007, NRF said. December sales declined 2.2% unadjusted over last year and decreased 1.4% seasonally-adjusted from November.

“The current economic crisis proved to be more challenging than any had anticipated,” said NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. “Consumers showed they were more than willing to wait out retailers this year causing increased pressure on prices.”

According to the U.S. Commerce Dept., total retail sales—which includes non-general merchandise such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants—decreased 2.7% from November seasonally-adjusted and 7.9% unadjusted year-over-year.