Sales “decent” so far: MasterCard

Holiday sales are up 2.3% so far this season with the bulk of gift card redemptions yet to contribute to the results, according to new data from MasterCard SpendingPulse.

During the period beginning Nov. 1 and extending through Dec. 24, MasterCard SpendingPulse said sales for holiday categories increased 2.3% compared to the prior year, while total retail spending increased 3.5%. Holiday categories are defined as apparel, electronics, jewelry, luxury, and home furniture and furnishings. Among the holiday-related categories, jewelry was a clear winner, and one of the few sectors that increased over last year, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse. Total apparel also saw modest growth, while luxury and electronics were flat. E-commerce sales showed low double-digit growth.

"The holiday shopping results are in line with expectations, but several factors impacted retail sales this year," said Sarah Quinlan, SVP of market insights for MasterCard Advisors, producer of the monthly SpendingPulse report. "Having six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as bad weather in some parts of the country for the final two weekends of the season clearly had an effect on sales. Yet holiday sales were a clear improvement over last year’s weaker numbers. One clear bright spot is that many consumers who were stuck indoors turned to online shopping to check items off their list and that helped drive e-commerce growth."

A separate analysis by MasterCard Advisors also showed that larger retailers performed slightly better than their smaller counterparts this year, likely due to the increased sales and promotions starting early in the season.