A lot of people are interested in how Christmas sales have gone so far this year and they’re going to have to wait a bit longer before an accurate picture emerges. State officials are as anxious as anyone to get a handle on retail sales this Christmas and the calendar alone makes State Revenue Director Carol Fischer nervous, because Thanksgiving fell so late in November it shortened the traditional Christmas shopping period. At the end of summer and the beginning of fall, retail sales in Missouri dropped off after fairly strong growth between April and July. While auto sales, spurred by no interest loans, softened the blow after September 11th, they are much softer now. Clothing sales of late have been strong, otherwise Fischer says sales are flat. And Missouri, like other states, hopes Christmas sales will be strong, which would help retail business in the state and bring in more sales tax revenue to sagging state coffers. Fischer has been checking reports almost daily and is seeing fluctuation as much as anything. Fischer says an accurate assessment of Christmas sales won’t be known until mid-January at the earliest, the end of January at the latest when stores send the state sales tax receipts.