U.S. Retailers Had a Very Merry Christmas, According to Early Sales Data
The big gift box under the retail industry’s Christmas tree was full—of cash, according to early data.
U.S. retail sales were up this year 5.1% to more than $850 billion, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, a report from the payment card vendor that looks at consumer purchases from December 1 through 24. It was the strongest performance in six years.
The National Retail Federation had projected that consumers on average had planned to spend $1,007 for decorations, candy, gifts, and other purchases for themselves.
It was also a great year for online retail, with sales jumping 19.1% over 2017, according to the Mastercard study. An example was Amazon (AMZN), which said it saw record global holiday sales. The company claimed that it shipped a billion products for free in the U.S. alone through its Amazon Prime subscription program. It also said that the number of voice-placed orders over its virtual personal assistant Alexa was triple that of last year.
Apparel sales were up 7.9% year over year, showing the best growth since 2010, according to Mastercard (MA). Home improvement sales saw a 9% gain. Home furniture and furnishings saw a 2.3% gain.
But some categories and companies did get a lump of coal in their stockings. Department stores saw a collective 1.3% sales decline, which may be due to store closings. Their online operations did deliver with a 10.2% gain.
And overall sales of electronics and appliances were down 0.7%. According to rumors, the drop had nothing to do with Santa trying to get refrigerators and washing machines down chimneys.