Some good news for Garden State retailers - retail sales across the nation totaled a record 4.7 trillion dollars in 2011 – a gain of almost 8 percent over the previous year.

The increase came despite a lower-than-expected 0.1 percent sales increase last month, when many analysts expected a buying boost – with holiday shoppers out in force.

Pat O’Keefe, Director of Economic Research at JH Cohn, says “this recovery reminds me of a sprinter who really builds up a head of steam and then stumbles, and then builds up a head of steam and then stumbles.”

Despite the December disappointment, the 2011 figures indicate the economy has been getting stronger lately, although not as quickly as many would prefer.