A woman walks through a shopping mall in San Francisco
A woman walks through a shopping mall in San Francisco, California January 5, 2012. REUTERS

(REUTERS) -- Retail sales rose at the weakest pace in seven months in December as consumers pulled back late in the holiday shopping season, cutting purchases at department stores and spending less on electronic gadgets.

Total retail sales increased 0.1 percent after rising by an upwardly revised 0.4 percent in November, the Commerce Department said on Thursday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales climbing 0.3 percent last month.

The upward revision for November sales suggests consumers likely frontloaded their holiday shopping. The government had initially estimated retail sales gained 0.2 percent in November.

Spending at electronics and appliance stores fell 3.9 percent in December, while shopping at department stores slipped 0.2 percent.

Fueling the overall increase in retail sales during December, receipts for motor vehicles and parts increased 1.5 percent, adding to the prior month's 0.9 percent gain.

Excluding autos, retail sales fell 0.2 percent, the first decline since May 2010.

Sales at food and beverage stores fell 0.2 percent in December. Also holding back the overall gain in sales, receipts at gasoline stations dropped 1.6 percent last month after rising 0.9 percent in November.

Core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline and building materials, dropped 0.1 percent in December after advancing 0.3 percent the prior month.

Core sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of the government's gross domestic product report.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Andrea Ricci)