Mastercard: Holiday sales up 8.5%, beating forecast

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 257 views 

Holiday shoppers spent big between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25, pushing sales up 8.5%, the biggest increase in 17 years, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse report. Mastercard had forecasted holiday spending to rise 7.4%.

In-store sales were up 8.1% over the 2020 period and 2.4% higher than in the pre-pandemic era of 2019. E-commerce sales were 11% higher this year compared with 2020 and 61.4% more than in 2019, the report states.

The monthly report tracks in-store and online retail sales (excluding automotive) and it includes all forms of payment. The report is the first overall look at holiday spending in 2021 and it revealed gains in many categories and modes of shopping.

“Shoppers were eager to secure their gifts ahead of the retail rush, with conversations surrounding supply chain and labor supply issues sending consumers online and to stores in droves,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard. “Consumers splurged throughout the season, with apparel and department stores experiencing strong growth as shoppers sought to put their best dressed foot forward.”

Sadove said e-commerce sales made up 20.9% of total retail sales this year, compared to 20.6% in 2020 and 14.6% in 2019.

Mastercard reports the burst in holiday sales were led by purchases of clothing and jewelry. Apparel sales were up 47.3%, and sales were also up 29% when compared to 2019. Jewelry sales increased 32% year-over-year and they were 26% higher than in 2019. Electronics sales rose 16.2% from a year ago, and category grew sales 19.8% compared to 2019. Department store sales this holiday season were up 21.2% year-over-year and up 11% from 2019.

The report also echoed what the National Retail Federation has said all season in that consumers shopped earlier than before.

“Retailers began preparations for the holiday season months in advance, offering seasonal inventory early and taking preventative measures to circumvent supply chain challenges exacerbated by the pandemic,”NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in mid-November.

The NRF reported 54% of consumers reported completing their shopping earlier in 2021. Mastercard found total retail sales were 8.6% higher year-over-year for the 75 days between Oct. 11 and Dec. 24.

The data also revealed shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend was strong. For the Thanksgiving weekend (Friday, Nov. 26 through Sunday, Nov. 28). Mastercard said shoppers drove U.S. Thanksgiving retail sales up 14.1% year-over year. In-store sales also rebounded, increasing 16.5%  year-over-year for the weekend. E-commerce sales were up 4.9% over the same period in 2020.