Strong Retail Sales

Shoppers delivered the strongest holiday sales increase for U.S. retailers in six years, according to early data. Total U.S. retail sales, excluding automobiles, rose 5.1% between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 from a year earlier, according to Mastercard Spending Pulse, which tracks both online and in-store spending with all forms of payment. Overall, U.S. consumers spent over $850 billion this holiday season, according to Mastercard.

“Wall Street is running around like a chicken with its head cut off, while Mr. and Mrs. Main Street are happy with their jobs, enjoying their best wage increases in a decade,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail research and consulting firm. A recent drop in gas prices has helped last-minute spending, he said.

Sales have been generally strong throughout the holiday season, led by increases in online shopping. Retailers entered the holidays with momentum as online sales jumped 26.4% from a year earlier between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through Black Friday, one sign of an early buying surge, according to Adobe Analytics.

Buying slowed in early December in part because an unusually early Thanksgiving made it harder for retailers to sustain sales through the entire holiday shopping period, analysts and consultants said. But shoppers picked up the pace ahead of Christmas.

With Christmas Eve falling on a Monday, many retailers geared up to capitalize on a last-minute push from shoppers who were counting on the final weekend to wrap up their gift-buying. Chains including Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. extended deadlines to get online orders delivered before Christmas, while Amazon.com Inc. in some cities offered Prime members the option of free same-day delivery on Christmas Eve.

Many retailers also touted the option to buy online and pick up in store through Christmas Eve. Overall, sales in that category increased 47% from Nov. 1 to Dec. 19, according to Adobe.

 

Todd “Bubba” Horwitz