The decline was broad-based with nine out of 13 sectors posting a decline, the Commerce Department said.
This came despite a perceived boost to the consumer from falling oil prices and a healthy jobs market.
Core retail sales - which removes the most volatile sectors - slumped by 0.4 per cent, after rising 0.6 per cent in November.
Last month's reading was also revised to 0.4 per cent down from an earlier figure of 0.7 per cent, which could prompt economists to cut their growth estimates.
The news riled markets with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 1.1 per cent, while the S&P 500 shed around 1 per cent.