Buoyant clothing sales helped US retail revenues to beat expectations of a holiday decline, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Preliminary figures suggest that holiday sales - covering the months of November and December - were up 1.1% on last year to US$446.8bn, overturning the NRF's expectations of a 1% decline, and a great improvement on last year's 3.4% slump.

The organisation said retail industry sales for December were up 2.3% unadjusted year-on-year, and down 0.5% seasonally adjusted on November.

Apparel was a key driver of sales, with revenues from clothing and clothing accessories stores rising 7% year-on-year in December, and falling 0.6% on November's figures.

"With an eye on managing inventory and maintaining lower price-points, retailers did a tremendous job of planning for the holiday season," said NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells.

"While the consumer appears to be spending again, double-digit unemployment numbers will remain an impediment to maintaining this momentum."