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Holiday Retail Sales Rise Thanks To Spike In E-Commerce Purchases

Dave Royse

A surge in online sales rescued a short holiday season for retailers with an internet presence.

Total U.S. retail sales from Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve were up 3.4% from a year earlier, mostly due to a nearly 20% bump in online sales, according to Mastercard Inc's (NYSE: MA) SpendingPulse, which tracks retail spending across several different payment types. 

Online spending during the period hit an all-time high, rising 18.8% from 2018, Mastercard said. 

The traditional holiday shopping season was short this year, with Thanksgiving — and the usual start of the shopping season the day after — coming six days later than last year. That may have led some retailers concerned about a shorter season to boost promotions.

“E-commerce sales hit a record high this year with more people doing their holiday shopping online,” Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Incorporated, said in a statement.

“Due to a later than usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omnichannel sales earlier in the season, meeting consumers’ demand for the best deals across all channels and devices.”

Other findings from the report:

  • Apparel sales were up 1% over last year, with online clothing buys up 17%.
  • Customers are also shifting jewelry purchases online. Internet purchases of jewelry were up nearly 9%.
  • The good news for online retailers was offset by a lackluster season for department stores, which, while seeing higher online sales, saw overall sales drop nearly 2%. 
  • Electronics and appliance sales rose 4.6%.
  • Home and furnishing sales were up 1.3%. 

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