A sales assistant arranges handbags inside a Chanel boutique at a shopping mall in central Guangzhou, China, in February 2014. Alex Lee/Reuters/Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Lee/Reuters/Landov

In Boston, nearly 9 feet of snow this winter has kept shoppers out of stores, putting a strain on the local economy. bettlebrox/Flickr hide caption

itoggle caption bettlebrox/Flickr

Target shoppers Kelly Foley (from left), Debbie Winslow and Ann Rich use a smartphone to look at a competitor's prices while shopping shortly after midnight on Black Friday, in South Portland, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Robert F. Bukaty/AP

A New York Stock Exchange trader works on the floor on Dec. 17. Stocks rose nearly 300 points after the Federal Reserve announced it plans to begin raising interest rates next year. Andrew Burton/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The Capitol's dome and Christmas tree are illuminated on Dec. 11 as Congress worked to pass a $1.1 trillion U.S. government-wide spending bill and avoid a government shutdown. J. Scott Applewhite/AP hide caption

itoggle caption J. Scott Applewhite/AP

John Harris makes a weld for a test during a welding class at Spartanburg Community College in Spartanburg, S.C., on Oct. 22. Mike Belleme for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Mike Belleme for NPR