Over the holidays this year, retailers have seen big increases in holiday sales. According to the latest Mastercard SpendingPulse Report, holiday sales have increased by 4.9 percent over the previous year, making it the largest year by year increase since 2011.
“Overall, this year was a big win for retail,” Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president of market insights at Mastercard, said.
A lot of retailers have had promotions for the holiday season run as early as November 1 through Christmas Eve. Mastercard reports showed that there were significant jumps in sales the first three weeks of November.
Shoppers also kept getting those holiday deals up until December 23, a bonus Saturday before Christmas Eve. This date was only second to Black Friday for spending within a single day this year.
“[When] two people in a family are working, weekends are the time to do everything — life management as well,” Quinlan said. “To give them two days to do this type of regular shopping, it’s so important for them.”
According to the report, there was a 5.9 percent spike in jewelry sales, and the credit goes to the last minute shoppers.
There was a 7.5 percent increase in electronic and appliance sales this holiday period, making it the largest jump for the past decade. Sales for home furnishing and home improvement each jumped 5.1 percent.
Specialty apparel and department stores saw a moderate increase in sales. Otherwise, it has been an okay year for this category considering the tons of store closings seen all across the United States.
“We really have fallen out of love with clothes in the United States,” Quinlan said. “It really shows changing tastes of the woman. She was really such an important driver in clothes, and she’s really not anymore.”
The National Retail Foundation has said it will not see the holiday data by Mid-January, but final holiday retail figures for the holiday season are predicted to meet or exceed expectations from the October forecast of 3.6 up to 4 percent.
“This holiday season’s big winners — in addition to consumers — were retailers of all shapes and sizes across all segments,” Matthew Shay, president and chief executive of the National Retail Federation, said in an email. “From online and luxury retailers to department and discount stores, from Main Street to mega stores and everything in between, traffic and sales were generally up.”
Mark A. Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia Business School, has also cautioned against reading too much into the numbers because there are a lot of factors that could be affecting them.
“The real tale of the tape won’t be known until February and March,” Cohen said. “Free shipping is enormously expensive. Returns are enormously problematic, especially for e-commerce players. And this very expansive consumer is now going to hibernate for a while.”
“The economy has been booming. Unemployment is at the very lowest point in eight years — even though there remain folks who are unemployed who are not being counted, and there are still folks who are underemployed. The fact is there are employment rolls [that] are high, consumer confidence seems to be remarkably high, disposable income is therefore robust and consumers seem to be once again loading their credit cards.”
Online retail has been the clear winner of the holiday season and is definitely led by Amazon. On Monday, Amazon released that they have reached record breaking sales for this holiday season, with more than 1 billion sales worldwide. In a single week, there were more than four million sign ups for the Amazon Prime free trial.
Lots of online shoppers have also shown to have waited up until the last minute. The company has said that the peak day for holiday shopping was December 19.
“Years ago you had to shop from a website on Cyber Monday” to guarantee delivery by Christmas, Cohen said. “Now you can shop from the 20th or the 21st or even the 22nd and still have that surety. The knowledge that these e-commerce players are getting better and better at fulfilling these promises no doubt also induced customers.”