Holiday Retail Sales Grew 4.9% from 2016

Holiday retail sales increased 4.9% between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, setting a new record for dollars spent, according to data from MasterCard SpendingPulse, the largest boost since 2011 and an indication of consumer confidence as the economy grows.

Ecommerce saw a larger gain of 18.1% sales growth, according to MasterCard, boosted by a late season rally. The SpendingPulse report covers retail sales across all payment types, including cash and check.

MasterCard did not provide dollar figures for holiday retail sales. Deloitte predicted 4% to 4.5% growth, or a total of $1.4 to $1.5 trillion. The National Retail Federation called for a more modest increase of 3.6% to 4% for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion, up from $655.80 billion in 2016. The NRF will release its holiday figures in January.

Key findings of the Mastercard SpendingPulse report for holiday retail sales include:

  • Sales of electronics and appliances increased 7.5%, the strongest growth in a decade.
  • Both home improvement and home furniture/furnishings grew 5.1%.
  • Specialty apparel and department stores, driven mostly by in-store purchases, saw moderate gains in November and December, a hopeful sign amidst hundreds of store closings.
  • Retailers’ heavy early-season promotions paid off, with the first three weeks of November seeing significant jumps.
  • Shoppers were still spending late into the season, with Dec. 23 approaching Black Friday in terms of single-day spending. This was a boon for categories like jewelry, which jumped 5.9%, largely driven by last-minute sales.

Consumer confidence was at a 17-year-high in November, according to Dow Jones, while unemployment was at a 17-year low in October. Personal consumption expenditures, which measures household spending, was up 4.5% in November vs. 2016; it had gained 4% during the summer.

“Evolving consumer preferences continue to play out in the aisles and online sites of retailers across the U.S.,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president of Market Insights for Mastercard in a release. “Overall, this year was a big win for retail. The strong U.S. economy was a contributing factor, but we also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase.”

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