Despite the extreme weather across much of the United States during prime holiday shopping time and a shortened holiday season, sales for the the November-December holiday period increased by 3.0 percent, based on a tally of monthly reporting firms compiled by the International Council of Shopping Centers. The December same-store increase was 3.4 percent on a year-over-year basis, which was stronger than November's sluggish 2.1 percent gain.

For the two-month holiday-selling period of 2013, U.S. chain-store sales for the industry — as reflected by the monthly reporting firms — outpaced the prior year's rise of 1.8 percent, though individual retailer performance was very uneven and sales were extremely promotional across a wide spectrum of retailers, causing some retailers to warn of weaker earnings for the quarter.

"While some retailers undoubtedly faced a tough holiday season with more promotional activity, bouts of adverse weather and a cautious consumer, overall industry sales met expectations and managed to outpace last year's growth rate," said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist and vice president of research for ICSC.

For the calendar year of 2013, industry sales grew by 3.3 percent — in line with holiday season — and was the strongest annual sale performance since 2011 when sales spurted by 4.7 percent

Looking ahead to the end of the fiscal year for most retailers, ICSC Research forecasts January monthly comparable-store sales will increase by between 3 percent and 3.5 percent over last year, just slightly under the December increase.

Read more about consumer behavior.

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