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The 4.9% year-over-year increase was "a big win for retail", the largest gain since 2011, "and a further indication of consumer confidence", the credit card company said.

From November 1through Christmas Eve, holiday retail sales were up 4.9% year-over-year (YoY) in the U.S., according to data from Mastercard SpendingPulse cited by Business Insider.

"We also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase", she said.

Economists say that healthy sales in retail are supported by strong employment figures nationwide. Much of the growth Mastercard reported was powered by online shopping, up 18.1 percent compared with the same holiday period in 2016.

Shoppers wait for the opening of a Macy's department store in NY on November 23, 2017. Cyber Monday this year was the largest sales day online in history, with retail data collector Adobe reporting that over $6.59 billion was spent in sales in one day, an increase of more than 16.8% from 2016.

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The S&P retail index was flat on Wednesday.

After a year that included bankruptcies and negative reports about the future of shopping malls, retailers are ending the year with a high and prospects look up for 2018.

Delivering individual packages to shoppers - and picking up returns - is a lower margin business for delivery companies, which make more when they deliver in bulk to businesses.

The biggest victor of the holiday season was likely to be Amazon.com once again, however, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll conducted this month. Given the continuing upward trend, reports could show more record highs early next year as the numbers flow in.

Rival FedEx Corp said it experienced another record-breaking peak shipping season, but declined to provide specifics. The service tracks both online and in-store purchases. That's the biggest increase in six years, according to a report by Mastercard. About 17 percent of Chicago shoppers surveyed expected to spend at least a quarter of their holiday budget after Christmas. That is an increase of almost 40 million over the previous year.