WashPo has a long article here bewailing the lack of retail sales. One reason might be the really utilitarian product retailers have to sell. Consider Walmart. A worthy place, the price is right, the stuff is OK, and I shop there. But only for pretty utilitarian things, like Jockey shorts, prescription medicine, and paper towels. Over the last few years we have lost the Radio Shack, a nice kitchenware place, a decent used book store, a very decent new book and toy store, an Ace Hardware, two video stores, and The Oasis restaurant. All that's left is Lahout's, Walmart, Staples, Home Despot, and Lowes. None of them are very gifty stores.
For Christmas, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, I go on line to find nice stuff to give as gifts. I gotta drive a long way south on I93,. Tilton or Concord. to find anything much better. So this Christmas, Amazon, Lee Valley, Signals, and Garrett Wade got all my Christmas buying.