According to a report by Mastercard, retail sales in the United States during the holiday season increased by 3%, indicating a positive trend in consumer spending. The report, which analyzes overall retail spending across different payment methods, revealed a significant growth of 49% in online sales compared to the previous year. These figures, which exclude automotive and gasoline sales, cover the period from October 11 to December 24.

Steve Sadove, a senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Inc., emphasized that American consumers redefined the holiday season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With more people staying at home, there was a surge in online shopping for items related to home improvement and decor. Additionally, consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than ever before, resulting in a 75-day shopping season that showcased the strength of both retailers and consumers.

The report also highlighted the shift towards online spending, with e-commerce accounting for 19.7% of overall retail sales starting from October 11. This marked a significant increase from the 13.4% reported in 2019. However, the apparel sector experienced a decline in spending of 19.1%, with only a modest increase of 15.7% in online sales. On the other hand, jewelry sales decreased by 4.3%, but online sales for this category saw an impressive growth of 44.6%. Unfortunately, specific figures for online luxury sales were not provided in the report.

In contrast, the home furniture and furnishings sector saw the highest growth compared to the previous year, with a notable increase of 16.2%. Online sales in this category also experienced a healthy growth rate of 31%. However, department stores faced an overall decline in sales of 10.2%, with weak online sales growth of only 3.3%. The report highlighted the significance of initiatives such as “buy online, pick up in-store” and contactless technologies, which allowed retailers to adapt to the changing consumer preferences during the holiday season.

The report also indicated a shift in shopping behavior, with US consumers starting their holiday shopping much earlier than usual. Retailers offered special promotions earlier and more frequently, resulting in a decrease in Black Friday sales by 16.1%. However, the period from Thanksgiving weekend through Cyber Monday remained important for shoppers, with Black Friday being the highest spending day of the entire holiday season. December 12 also witnessed significant sales as shoppers rushed to take advantage of shipping offers guaranteeing delivery by Christmas. Interestingly, the report noted a decrease in last-minute shoppers compared to the previous year.

These changes in shopping behavior can be attributed to various factors, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is significant. With restrictions and safety concerns affecting physical shopping, consumers turned to online platforms for their holiday purchases. The resilience and adaptability of both retailers and consumers in navigating these challenges are evident in the holiday retail sales figures.

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