Gridlock in nation's capital hits home in holiday season.

Fear of the nation tumbling over the so-called fiscal cliff wasn't lost on some holiday shoppers.

In nationwide surveys, many consumers cited lingering economic uncertainty as one reason they cut back on Christmas shopping lists. Some were so skittish about the future economy and its impact on their pocketbooks that they diverted some dollars from holiday spending to savings.

Putting money aside for a rainy day always is commendable. But such frugality no doubt also contributed to a number of retailers seeing thinner-than-usual crowds of shoppers in the final moments of the annual shopping spree.

Stores did their best to ramp up specials in hopes of attracting as many shoppers as possible. Such price-cutting moves probably helped some merchants make the most of the time of year considered make or break for many.

Retailers typically collect 40 percent of their annual sales in the November to December period. The week after Christmas also is considered part of the season at that point, however, many merchants must make a push to move items sitting on store shelves for months.

While deep discounts mean even better deals for consumers, sales become less profitable for store operators. It's just one of many concerns in a nation gripped by fear over imminent tax hikes and cuts to government spending ahead if Congress fails to steer clear of the fiscal cliff.

As many Americans wait and worry about the fallout of the latest economic crisis, early returns on holiday shopping already point to many retailers including the independent, mom-and-pop stores that already have their share of challenges paying the price for the gridlock.

Had lawmakers somehow found a way to put aside their selfish, politically-driven interests and work together on solving the problem before the crucial Christmas shopping season, many Americans who depend on a holiday shopping surge wouldn't be in such a tough spot. That goes for employers and employees alike in a competitive retail environment.

Unfortunately, it's just the start of far-reaching, damaging circumstances that will result without the compromise the nation needs to address its financial mess and move forward.