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Eager gift buyers drive holiday sales up 8.5%

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PURCHASE, N.Y. — Retail sales (excluding automotive) increased 8.5% year over year this holiday season, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. Online sales grew 11% compared to the same period last year, the preliminary insights show. Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment, defines the holiday season as running from November 1 through December 24.

“Shoppers were eager to secure their gifts ahead of the retail rush, with conversations surrounding supply chain and labor supply issues sending consumers online and to stores in droves,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former chairman and chief executive officer of Saks Inc. “Consumers splurged throughout the season, with apparel and department stores experiencing strong growth as shoppers sought to put their best-dressed foot forward.”

Findings from Mastercard SpendingPulse underscore the strength of the holiday shopper across channels, with consumers returning to stores (up 8.1% year over year) and e-commerce continuing to expand, up 11% compared to 2020. Additional key findings include:

• Consumers shopped early: Continuing a key trend from 2020,  U.S. consumers shopped earlier than in years past, as retailers offered special promotions early and then again later in the season as shoppers raced to secure “guaranteed by Christmas” shipping offers.

• Thanksgiving weekend remained key: Black Friday marked the top spending day of the 2021 holiday season yet again.

• Smaller boxes had a big impact: Whether consumers were shopping for themselves or for loved ones, the jewelry sector experienced some of the strongest YOY and YO2Y growth.

• E-commerce sales snowballed: This holiday season, e-commerce made up 20.9% of total retail sales, up from 20.6% in 2020 and 14.6% in 2019.


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