According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales in the November/December timeframe increased 5.5% over the same period in 2016 to $691.9 billion.
Consumers cut spending at department stores, with sales dropping 1.1 percent last month, while sporting goods fell.5 percent year-over year.
Retail trade sales were up 0.3% from November 2017, and were up 5.6% from previous year. "Consumers are still buying, but where they are buying and how they are buying is changing and will continue to evolve as price transparency increases and e-commerce and brick-and-mortar operations of retailers continue to converge into one seamless consumer experience". It marked the fourth consecutive month of increase for the industry after a bruising year strewn with bankruptcies and department store closures largely from the shift to online shopping.
A report released by the Commerce Department on Friday showed USA retail sales rose in line with economist estimates in the month of December.
Excluding auto sales, retail sales still rose by 0.4% in December after jumping by 1.3% in November.
The NRF credited the sales numbers to the 17-year low unemployment, increase in income, strong consumer confidence and the healthy stock market for shoppers' willingness to open their wallets.
Throughout the season, NRF said clothing and accessories sales saw a 2.7 percent uptick year-over-year.
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December sales gained 0.4% seasonally adjusted from November and advanced 4.6% unadjusted year-over-year, NRF indicated, citing United States Census Bureau data.
"After years in hibernation, consumers - accounting for 70 percent of GDP - are finally flexing their spending muscles", Johnson said.
Not all categories of retail fared well in December. Taken together, analysts said, that represented the best holiday spending performance since 2005.
Department store chain Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., announced that its comparable-store sales for the nine-week holiday period decreased 2.9%, while sales declined 6.6% in the third quarter.
Looking at specific categories, December sales and overall 2017 retail sales were a mixed bag. Ellison predicted a rebound in apparel and other categories.