The numbers are in: Retailers had the best holiday season in years

Retail Sales Grew 0.4% in December

Excluding sales of automobiles, which rose by 0.2% to reach $102.06bn, retail sales were 0.4% ahead versus the previous month, which was in-line with economists' forecasts. Sales at clothing stores dropped 0.3 percent, while online retailers' sales gained 1.2 percent. "General merchandise sales (without food or autos) barely moved up, and most of the increase was in non-store retailing", Erik Gordon, professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, told Retail Dive in an email.

Holiday sales jumped 5.5 percent compared to a year ago, marking the largest jump seen since the end of the Great Recession, the National Retail Federation said on Friday.

Data on retail sales can be volatile from month to month, aren't adjusted for inflation and don't include spending on most services such as housing and health care.

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In December, U.S. retail sales increased as households purchased a range of goods and the figures for the month prior were revised higher, which indicates the economy entered 2018 with strong momentum.

"We knew going in that retailers were going to have a good holiday season, but the results are even better than anything we could have hoped for", said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. These so-called core retail sales are the most consistent with the consumer spending element of gross domestic product (GDP).

Sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers also edged up by 0.2% in December after tumbling by 1.0% in November.

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The supermarket said its turkey prices were amongst the "lowest" in the land. "As a result, full year guidance remains unchanged". He said that but for October's unseasonable mild weather, M&S would have had a positive sales performance for clothing.

Not all categories of retail fared well in December.

With the optimistic outlook for consumer spending, Fed officials expected the USA economy to grow 2.5 percent this year, an upgrade of 2.1 percent from their forecasts in September last year.

The confidence will likely continue into this year, especially as shoppers look to spend year-end bonuses and any windfall from tax changes, Saunders said.

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Sales at gasoline stations were unchanged during December after growing 3.0% in November. It's a key gauge for the economy, which derives about two-thirds of its output from consumer spending. Among the top 30 cities, Philadelphia ranked No. 12 in terms of total dollars spent in November and December. Spending was up at furniture sellers, grocery stores and restaurants.

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