Don't count out the holiday season just yet.
After a larger-than-usual last-minute shopping boost, followed by a solid start to the post-Christmas period, one well-known retail analyst is lifting his forecast for the critical spending period.
Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, now expects holiday sales to increase 4.9 percent this season. That's up from his previous estimate of 4.1 percent growth.
If achieved, this rate of growth would be the most robust increase in more than a decade. In 2005, sales rose 6.1 percent year over year, Johnson said.
In addition to the last-minute spending surge, stronger-than-expected economic fundamentals, record stock prices, double-digit online sales growth and chilly temperatures contributed to the firm's revision.
"This was the strongest Christmas Eve we've seen in a long time," Johnson said. He added that Monday was the "strongest Dec. 26th we've seen in years."
During the final shopping crunch, retailers benefited from Christmas falling on a Sunday. That gave consumers an extra Saturday to complete their shopping. The industry's momentum continued into Monday, which was a federal holiday, Johnson said.
"We had a major inflection point in retail demand occurring a few days after the election ... [and] things have steadily gathered steam ever since then," he said.
Although foot traffic was down throughout the season — most notably at the malls — shoppers that did head out to the stores made purchases more frequently, Johnson noted. Popular products included over-the-knee boots, Hatchimals and televisions.