Because of a typographical error, the downtown Washington department store sales figure for December was incorrect in yesterday's Business & Finance section. The correct figure is $15 million.

Sales by retailers in the metropolitan Washington area soared late last year, contributing to a record holiday season, but volume for the full year remained at lackluster levels because of a slow start in the early months of 1979.

According to a Commerce Department report yesterday, area retail sales during December jumped 14 percent from a year earlier to $1.45 billion. The local sales gain exceeded the national average increased during December of 8 percent and topped area November retail revenues by 23 percent. d

The holiday sales boom boosted 1979 area retail sales in a record $13.47 billion-but that was up just 8 percent form 1978 and below the level of consumer price increases during the year. Nationwide, sales for the full year were up 11 percent.

Commerce retail data reflect sales of all types of companies -- supermarkets, departments stores, automobile dealers, resturants and other businesses that sell to the general public.

Separate figures for department stores showed that area general merchandise retailers sold $247 million in goods during December up 51 percent from the previous month but only 4 percent higher than December of from 1978 to $1.6 billion.

Department store sales in downtown Washington were at the strongest level in more than to a decade, in terms of business growth. Downtown sales in December were $15 billion, up 44 percent from November and up 3 percent from the previous year. During 1979, downtown department store sales rose 9 percent to $103 million -- the strongest gain among eight central city business districts surveyed monthly by the federal government.