Holiday retail sales registered an 8.5 percent increase over the past year, according to a Mastercard report published on Dec. 26, as the economy continues to struggle with the highest inflation rates in almost 40 years combined with product shortages.
Mastercard SpendingPulse measures sales numbers from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24 and includes in-store and online retail sales. Auto sales aren’t part of the survey, which includes all forms of payments, such as cash and check.
Sales numbers in 2021 were visibly buoyed by robust e-commerce transactions, which grew by about 11 percent compared to 2020, while customers returning to stores went up by 8.1 percent. Worries about products running out of stock encouraged customers to buy fast and early.
“Shoppers were eager to secure their gifts ahead of the retail rush, with conversations surrounding supply chain and labor supply issues sending consumers online and to stores in droves,” Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard, said in the report. “Consumers splurged throughout the season, with apparel and department stores experiencing strong growth as shoppers sought to put their best-dressed foot forward.”
The total retail sales growth was 10.7 percent compared to pre-pandemic 2019, while e-commerce showed a whopping 61.4 percent expansion, indicating the effect that COVID-19 has had on the average consumer’s shopping habits.
Online sales made up 20.9 percent of total retail sales in 2021, which is an increase from 20.6 percent in 2020 and from 14.6 percent in 2019.
“I feel really good about how the season played out,” Sadove told the Associated Press. “When people feel a little bit uncomfortable, you’ll see a little bit of a pickup in online and a little bit of a slowdown in store performance.”
Black Friday won the top spot for the most sales in a day again, and the 2021 Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 26 to Nov. 28, had 14 percent more sales than the same span experienced in 2020. In-store purchases also went up by more than 16.5 percent from the lockdown-ridden holidays of 2020.
Despite the Consumer Price Index rising by 6.8 percent from November 2020, apparel sales saw 47.3 percent growth and jewelry sales saw 32 percent growth, some of the highest numbers compared to 2020, with both categories growing by less than 30 percent from 2019.
Department store sales went up by 21.2 percent from 2020 (and by 11 percent from 2019), and electronics sales were up by 16.2 percent (19.8 percent).
Customers cashed in on early offers such as “guaranteed delivery by Christmas,” promoted by retailers, according to the report. Total retail sales were up by more than 8.6 percent during Mastercard’s expanded holiday season, which falls between Oct. 11 and Dec. 24.
The numbers are based on aggregate sales activity in the Mastercard payments network, along with survey-based estimates for other payment modes.
The National Retail Federation’s findings will come out in January 2022, which will offer a more precise picture of the retail situation across the country, with the trade group’s combined two-month results being based on figures from the U.S. Commerce Department.