Retail is having its best holiday shopping season in six years, according to early data tracking consumers’ purchases by Mastercard SpendingPulse. Sales in the U.S. from Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve were up 5.1 percent to more than $850 billion, according to Mastercard, which monitors spending both in stores and online via all forms of payment. Mastercard also said online sales during that time frame were up 19.1 percent from a year ago, in line with earlier reports that showed robust growth in e-commerce this holiday season.
This all comes despite latest fluctuations in the stock market, worries on Wall Street about a potentially slowing economy and a partial government shutdown. Consumer confidence remains strong, translating into robust retail sales, said Steve Sadove, former CEO of Saks and currently advisor for Mastercard.
Some of the strongest sectors within retail this holiday season include apparel and home improvement, according to Mastercard. Apparel sales were up nearly 8 percent from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, their best growth since 2010, the firm said. Home improvement spending, meanwhile, was up 9 percent. In apparel, the biggest growth over the past few months has stemmed from activewear retailers and off-price companies such as T.J. Maxx, said Craig Johnson, president of retail advisory firm Customer Growth Partners.
E-commerce, meanwhile, continues to be thoroughly dominated by Amazon. The e-commerce giant was taking a whopping 81 percent of internet sales against other big-box retailers from Dec. 1 to Dec. 19, according to Edison Trends, a firm that tracks the market share of online retailers. (Is 81 percent of a market a monopoly?) Amazon said this week that it sold a record number of items this holiday season, though it didn’t disclose any revenue figures.