New data from financial analysis company Sageworks show a bleak picture of 2013 retail sales thus far. 

According to Sageworks, privately held retailers' sales are growing at an annual rate of 1 percent, the lowest annual rate since 2009. Worse, small business retailers -- those will less than $5 million in annual sales -- saw a 2 percent contraction in sales in 2013. The numbers came from Sageworks' proprietary database of privately held companies' financial statements. For comparison, past growth rates have been reported as follows: 

U.S. privately held retailers, sales percent change

  • 2009   -6.4%
  • 2010   7.6%
  • 2011   9.8%
  • 2012   7.4%

Small business retailers, sales percent change

  • 2009   -5.9%
  • 2010   6.0%
  • 2011   7.2%
  • 2012   5.9% 

"These companies are showing slightly improved profit margins now, but if their rate of sales growth doesn't increase, these margins could be difficult to sustain, impacting retailers' hiring and investing practices in the future," Sageworks Analyst Libby Bierman said in a statement. 

"Unfortunately, due to the combination of slowing sales growth and declining consumer confidence, it doesn't look like the holiday season is going to be the solution U.S. retailers need," she added. 

The holidays are indeed an important time of year for retailers. In 2012, holiday sales represented 19.3 percent of total retail industry sales for the year, according to the National Retail Federation

Many small business owners have already acknowledged that they’ll be struggling during this year-end shopping season. According to a recent survey of 500 small businesses, only 22 percent expect strong holiday sales.