Mastercard: ‘Extended’ holiday sales up 3%; home furnishings the big winner

Marianne Wilson
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Online spending drove holiday sales this year, fueled by strong performances from the home furnishings and home improvement category.  

Total retail sales (excluding automotive and gasoline) increased 3.0% during an expanded holiday season, running from October 11 through December 24, according to preliminary results from Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks retail spending trends across all payment types, including cash and check. Online sales rose 49.0% compared to 2019. 

Total retail sales rose 2.4% during the traditional holiday season, November 1 through December 24, according to Mastercard. The National Retail Federation’s annual holiday forecast projected that sales would increase between 3.6% and 5.2.

The Mastercard SpendingPulse findings underscore the shift to online spending, with e-commerce accounting for 19.7% of overall retail sales – up from approximately 13.4% in 2019. The findings also showed that consumers continue to spend more time – and money – on their homes. Home furnishings, including furniture, experienced the strongest growth of any sector compared to 2019, up 16.2%. Online, the sector grew 31.0%.

In addition, home improvement was up 14.1%, with e-commerce sales up 79.7%.

•    Apparel declined 19.1% year over year.
•    Electronics and appliances were up 6.0% overall.
•    Grocery rose 6.8%.
•    Department stores saw overall sales decline of 10.2% and online sales growth of 3.3%, reinforcing the importance of omnichannel offerings. 

According to Mastercard, U.S. consumers shopped far earlier than in years past, as retailers offered special promotions early and often. In addition, though Black Friday was down (-16.1%), Thanksgiving weekend through Cyber Monday remained a key time for shoppers, with Black Friday being the top spending day of the 2020 holiday season.

The National Retail Federation forecast holiday sales growth of 3.6% to 5.2%.