An eleventh-hour shopping surge appears to have salvaged an otherwise disappointing December for America's retail industry.

Initial figures suggested the holiday season had been well below forecasts, but many retailers found the day before and the day after Christmas brought in the biggest sales.

The Goldman Sachs index of same-store sales (those at shops open at least a year) rose 4% last month, the strongest Christmas rise for four years and ahead of Goldman's forecasts of 3.2%.

Similarly, results from the International Council of Shopping Centers, which tracks 80 retail chains, point to a 4.2% increase in same-store sales, matching its prediction of 4% to 4.5%.

Among individual stores, Wal-Mart announced a surprise 4.3% gain. The world's biggest retailer had previously warned that its December sales would come in at the low end of its 3%-5% range [WAMN: 30-Dec-03]. Discount rival Target was up 4.1%.

Luxury chains had the merriest Christmas. Neiman Marcus Group reported a 12.6% surge in same-store sales, while Tiffany was up 16%.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff