Sales in restaurants and bars rose 0.7 percent, while department and general merchandise stores saw a more modest rise of 0.1 percent.
The number, which excludes restaurants, automobile dealers and gasoline stations, includes $138.4 billion in online and other non-store sales, which were up 11.5% over the year before.
USA retail and food service sales gained 0.4 percent compared with November and were up 5.4 percent compared with a year ago, the Census Bureau reported January 12.
Despite December's solid numbers, most categories of retailers did better in November than in December. 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. "Whether they shopped in-store, online or on their phones, consumers were in the mood to spend, and retailers were there to offer them good value for their money".
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 past year.
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. Furniture stores, and building material and garden equipment (two separate categories), both enjoyed annual gains of 9.9 percent. Clothing and accessories managed a 2.4% increase.
"Results are even better than anything we could have hoped for", federation CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.
Another key indicator, the U.S. Labor Department's consumer price index, rose 0.3%, the government said Friday. A gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.48 on average in December versus $2.56 in November, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
"After years in hibernation, consumers - accounting for 70 percent of GDP - are finally flexing their spending muscles", Johnson said.
Retail spending represents 35 percent of all spending in Philly, and grew 3.7 percent during the holiday season.
British PM Theresa May continues shake up of ministerial team
Theresa May's new ministerial team is more diverse and will "better reflect the country which it serves", Downing Street said. Last year's flurry of high-profile resignations triggered repeated calls for a reshuffle, which until now went unheeded.