On Monday, the National Retail Federation predicted retail sales will rise 3.4% to $2.53 trillion in 2012. In 2011, sales grew 4.7%.

Brian Sozzi, Editor in Chief of the Decoding the Wall Street Journal newsletter, said the numbers show there is a continued sense of caution among consumers.

"The days of filling up the closet with spring clothes right now - those days are done," explained Sozzi. "Especially if you don't need the item, chances are you're not buying it."

The financial meltdown years ago wounded the majority of consumers, and many households across the nation have still not recovered. That was one reason offered by Sozzi for the step backward in retail numbers.

He also said inflation was a big factor.

Your paycheck is not able to be stretched as much as it used to be, said Sozzi.

The NRF prediction proved retail numbers will not spike in a straight line, and ups and downs are to be expected.

Sozzi explained the sensitivity of the retail market can be seen from month to month, and may even be seen through this month and February or March, if the weather continues to keep folks indoors.

Still, considering the dire situation retailers found themselves in just a few years ago, 3.4% growth after an increase in 2011 is nothing to frown about.