More than $596 million in December sales bumped Lafayette Parish's 2012 total retail sales to $5.71 billion, a 6.5 percent increase over 2011 and easily the highest year on record.

December 2012 sales were the highest recorded for any December since the Lafayette Economic Development Authority began tracking retail sales in 1997, the organization confirmed in a press release Monday.

“The 2012 holiday shopping season did not disappoint, and total retail sales easily exceeded the $5.36 billion mark reached in 2011,” LEDA President and CEO Gregg Gothreaux said in the release. “Steady sales across all categories reflect the diversity and stability of the economy and the confidence of local consumers to invest in big ticket items.”

Overall, apparel, general merchandise and food were the best performing categories last year with double digit increases over 2011: 26.4 percent, 22.8 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively. All other categories showed increases over 2011, ranging from 17.2 percent to 7.2 percent.

This year's total beat the previous retail sales record set in 2008, $5.4 billion, by 5.7 percent. Sales dipped the year after the 2008 record, but a surge in spending in late 2010 continued into 2011. In 2012 monthly sales topped $500 million in four months, a level that had previously been exclusive to the month of December.

Though monthly sales totals fell slightly in the latter part of the year, the overall total climbed to a record high with December's 5.2 percent over December 2011.

As with retail sales, 2012 hotel/motel receipts outperformed 2011 totals, LEDA noted. December hotel/motel receipts totaled $4.85 million, bringing the yearly total to $76.3 million, 13.6 percent more than $67.2 million collected in 2011.

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