Holiday Ecommerce Up 18.8%; Retail Up 3.4%; Amazon Sets Records

Holiday ecommerce rose 18.8% over 2018, driving 3.4% overall growth in seasonal retail, delivering a very merry season for merchants, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse holiday report.

“Ecommerce sales hit a record high this year with more people doing their holiday shopping online,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard. “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.”

Holiday ecommerce growth was up slightly from an 18.4% gain in 2018 and accounted for 14.6% of total retail, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks spending trends across payment types, including cash and check. The holiday report includes shopping from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24. Most estimates put ecommerce at 10% to 12% of overall retail in the U.S.

On Black Friday, ecommerce claimed a 15.4% share of overall holiday spending, and that spiked to a 24.5% share on Cyber Monday.

Categories that benefited most year-over-year included specialty apparel, with a 17% growth in sales, jewelry (8.8%), electronics (10.7%), and department stores (6.9% )

President Donald J. Trump took note of the holiday shopping results, tweeting on Christmas: “2019 HOLIDAY RETAIL SALES WERE UP 3.4% FROM LAST YEAR, THE BIGGEST NUMBER IN U.S. HISTORY. CONGRATULATIONS AMERICA!”

In a Reuters report, Mastercard spokesman William Tsang noted that the 5.1% growth in total sales recorded in 2018 was higher than this year’s holiday sales growth.

The National Retail Federation had forecast holiday retail sales growth of between 3.8% and 4.2%, while pegging the average annual increase at 3.7% over the past five years.

Amazon, meanwhile, reported a record breaking holiday season, with billions of items ordered worldwide, though sales figures were not provided in its release.

The number of items delivered with Prime Free One-Day and Prime Free Same-Day Delivery rose almost fourfold, Amazon said, with sales skewing toward toys and games, fashion and home and beauty to account for more than 500,000 orders.

The Mastercard SpendingPulse also noted:

  • Total apparel posted 1% growth, with stronger than expected ecommerce growth, up 17%
  • Jewelry saw 1.8% growth in total retail sales, with online sales growing 8.8%
  • Department stores saw overall sales decline 1.8%, offset by online growth of 6.9% as major chains continue to pivot
  • Electronics and appliances grew 4.6% and home furniture/furnishings was up 1.3%

Those planning to return or exchange holiday gifts as they head out for post-Christmas sales would be wise to check return policies, and not delay too long. USA Today cited a survey saying many return policies have changed and tightened, including retailers like Kohl’s, despite its new policy of also accepting Amazon returns.