NRF's numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported that overall December sales - including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants - were up 0.4% seasonally adjusted from November and 5.4% year-over-year. Taken together, analysts said, that represented the best holiday spending performance since 2005.
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.
Americans spent 5.5% more in November and December 2017, reaching $691.9 billion, than they did the previous year, the National Retail Federation said Friday.
"We aren't sure who gets the credit for the strongest advance in consumer spending since 2010, but it is likely tied in part to the massive tax cuts from Washington and perhaps the Fed's easy money too-low interest rate policy for this stage of the business cycle with the economy in its ninth year of expansion from the end of the recession", said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in NY, in a note to clients Friday. The economy grew at a 3.2 percent pace during that period.
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.
"The market conditions were right, retailers were doing what they know how to do, and it all worked", Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF's chief economist, said in a statement.
However, sales of some more discretionary items, such as sporting goods, book and music stores declined by 1.6%, alongside a 2.9% fall in those at miscellaneous store retailers. Sales at auto dealerships increased by 0.2 percent, while sales at service stations were unchanged.
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Clothing and accessories stores were up 2.7 percent. Department and general merchandise stores, which include Macy's as well as Target and warehouse clubs, saw sales rise by just 0.1 percent.
"Any time you have a season like this, it can't be bad for retailers", said Glenn Fodor, First Data's head of information and analytics solutions.
Furniture and home furnishings stores jumped 7.5 percent.
Some last year's success could be a turning point for the industry.
Shortly after the start of trading, the Commerce Department is scheduled to release its report on business inventories in the month of November.
Miscellaneous store retailers turned in a gain of 3.8 percent, and even department stores eked out an annual gain of 0.5 percent.