Holiday sales best since Great Recession, as consumers buy the latest gadgets

Retail Sales Grew 0.4% in December

December's retail sales were the best in three years; Philly retailers did well too

Same-store sales at department stores through December 25 declined more than 6 percent.

Consumers cut spending at department stores, with sales dropping 1.1 percent last month, while sporting goods fell.5 percent year-over year.

Gasoline-station sales were flat in December from the prior month, according to the Commerce Department report.

Holiday sales during November and December increased 5.5% over the same period in 2016 to $691.9 billion as growing wages, stronger employment and higher confidence led consumers to spend more than had been expected, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said.

Sales at home and garden stores jumped 1.2 percent and increased 0.7 percent at restaurants and bars.

Compared to the same month a year ago, retail sales were up by 5.4% in December, reflecting a deceleration from the 6.0% year-over-year growth in November. The bureau adjusts for seasonal variation and holidays, but not price changes, so the gain is more than the fact that shoppers always buy more in December than in other months; it's a solid gain, especially since inflation is a minor factor in most retail categories.

U.S. Federal Reserve officials expected consumer spending will continue moderate growth in the near term, underpinned by the strength of the labor market, further improvements in household net worth, and buoyant consumer sentiment, according to minutes of Fed's policy meeting in December a year ago.

Building materials and supplies stores were up 8.1 percent.

General merchandise stores climbed 4.3 percent, while clothing and accessories stores grew 2.7 percent.

"Results are even better than anything we could have hoped for", federation CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. December e-commerce sales rose 1.2% from November and 12.7% from December 2016, according to the report.

Health and personal care stores increased 2.2% unadjusted year-over-year.

Its analysis released Wednesday showed that overall spending among Philly shoppers in stores grew 4 percent this last holiday season from previous year. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of USA economic output.

Total sales for the 12 months of 2017 were up 4.2% from 2016. Online spending grew 11.5 percent during the holidays to $138.4 billion.

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