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Retail sales grew 3% this holiday season

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E-commerce accounted for 19.7% of the overall volume

PURCHASE, N.Y. — Retail sales grew 3% this holiday season, according to preliminary data from Mastercard SpendingPulse, which attributes the size of the increase to an expanded holiday season and strong online sales.

Year-over-year sales growth was up 2.4% for the traditional holiday shopping period of November 1 through December 24, according to the study, which measures overall retail spending trends across all payment types, including cash and check, and excludes sales of autos and gas. Sales growth was up 3% for the expanded 75-day shopping period of October 11 through December 24.

“American consumers turned the holiday season on its head, redefining ‘home for the holidays’ in a uniquely 2020 way,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Inc. “They shopped from home for the home, leading to record e-commerce growth. And, consumers shopped earlier than ever before. Across our expanded 75-day holiday shopping season, sales were up 3.0%, a testament to the holiday season and strength of retailers and consumers alike.”

Key findings from Mastercard SpendingPulse underscore the shift to online spending, with e-commerce accounting for 19.7% of overall retail sales – up from approximately 13.4% in 2019. In addition, consumers continue to spend more time – and money – on their homes.

  • Home furniture and furnishings experienced the strongest growth of any sector compared to 2019, up 16.2%, and it grew 31.0% online specifically. In addition, home improvement was up 14.1%, with e-commerce sales up 79.7%.
  • Meanwhile, apparel experienced a decline of 19.1% year over year, while electronics and appliances were up 6.0% overall.
  • Department stores saw overall sales decline of 10.2% and online sales growth of 3.3%, reinforcing the importance of omnichannel offerings. Buy online, pick up in store as well as technologies like contactless were key for retailers this season.

holiday salesU.S. consumers also shopped far earlier than in years past this holiday season, inspired in part by special promotions offered by retailers. And while Black Friday retail sales were down by 16.1% this year, it still ranked as the top spending day of the 2020 holiday season.

Mastercard SpendingPulse reports on national retail sales across all payment types in select markets around the world. The findings are based on aggregate sales activity in the Mastercard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for certain other payment forms, such as cash and check.

Mastercard SpendingPulse defines “U.S. retail sales” as sales at retailers and food services merchants of all sizes. Sales activity within the services sector (for example, travel services such as airlines and lodging) are not included. Holiday spending insights are preliminary, the company said.


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