Skip to main content

Holiday surprise for retailers: Sales look better than expected


Did a last-minute rush make for stronger holiday sales than many — including the National Retail Federation — had expected?

That’s the way it looks based on the MasterCard Spending Pulse report, which found that sales (excluding auto and gas) increased 7.9% during the holiday season, led by double-digit gains in e-commerce, women’s apparel and furniture.

The SpendingPulse report, released on Monday, December 28, looked at U.S. sales trends across cards, cash and checks from Black Friday to Christmas Eve.

“After a slow start, I’m very happy to see that the holiday season was hot for retailers,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior VP, Market Insights for MasterCard Advisors. “We saw some very promising trends. The double-digit growth in furniture sales, for instance, shows that consumers are willing and able to splurge on big ticket items.”

According to SpendingPulse, e-commerce, furniture and women’s apparel were all big winners with double-digit gains (e-commerce growing roughly 20% compared to last year).

The report also found that for all of November and December, sales were up 4.6%, also slightly better than expected.

In specific findings:

• Overall retail sales (excluding auto and gas grew 4.6% from November through December compared to last year, slightly better than expected. Including gas, growth was just 2.7%, reflecting the lower gas prices and reinforcing the fact that consumers are spending the money they’re saving at the pump.

• Apparel saw high single-digit growth during the Black Friday to Christmas Eve window, with women’s apparel sales rising double-digits. Men’s apparel, on the other hand, declined. The delayed cold weather pushed back apparel buying this fall, so there was pent up demand that played out following Black Friday, according to MasterCard.

The NRF has forecast a 3.7% rise in holiday sales.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds