Retail sales reached a record level last year, despite sales barely rising in December.
Last month's small gain was enough to push sales to its largest annual increase in more than a decade.
"Although consumer spending is not particularly robust, households do continue to spend and provide moderate support for the overall economy," said Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that sales edged up 0.1 percent in December, bringing last month's total to a seasonally adjusted $400.6 billion.
For all of 2011, sales were up nearly 8 percent.
That's the largest percentage increase since 1999.