Every December is busy for the retail sector in the United States, but this one was especially so. According to the latest “Mastercard SpendingPulse” report, holiday retail sales increased by 4.9 percent from last year’s holiday season. Online shopping was especially strong, as a late-season rally helped drive the sector to a year-over-year increase of 18.1 percent since 2016. American shoppers set a new all-time record for total holiday dollars spent.
The SpendingPulse report covers all shopping activity between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 each year. It includes retail transactions completed via a wide range of payment methods–cash, check, and more. Mastercard’s reports cover all retail categories except automotive sales and are based on aggregated spending data across the entire Mastercard payments network, along with survey-based estimates for other payments like cash and checks.
The 2017 study found that retailers were successful with their heavy early-season promotions, as the first three weeks of November saw major jumps. But late sales were strong as well. Dec. 23 was the second most popular shopping day of the year in 2017, trailing only Black Friday. These strong sales come even though a couple of brick-and-mortar retailers elected not to air TV ads during the holiday shopping season.
“Evolving consumer preferences continue to play out in the aisles and online sites of retailers across the U.S.,” Mastercard market insights VP Sarah Quinlan said in a statement. “Overall, this year was a big win for retail. The strong U.S. economy was a contributing factor, but we also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase.”
Retailers in many sectors showed signs of improvement. Holiday retail sales in electronics and appliances saw their sales numbers go up 7.5 percent, the strongest growth they’ve seen in any season over the last ten years. Home furniture and furnishings bolstered their sales by 5.1 percent, as did home improvement. Specialty apparel and department stores each saw moderate gains.