The holiday season was a bright one for U.S. retailers, with one report showing that retail sales from Oct. 11 through Dec. 24 increased 3 percent when compared to the same period a year earlier.
This news might come as a surprise considering the negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on retailers throughout most of 2020. But a longer holiday shopping season — many retailers unveiled their first holiday sales on Oct. 11 this year — proved to be a winning formula, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse report released on Dec. 26.
The report said that while all retail sales, excluding automotive and gasoline, jumped 3 percent this holiday season, online sales grew 49 percent when compared to 2019.
“American consumers turned the holiday season on its head, redefining ‘home for the holidays’ in a uniquely 2020 way. They shopped from home for the home, leading to record e-commerce growth,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former chief executive officer and Chairman of Saks Incorporated. “And, consumers shopped earlier than ever before.”
That last part is key. When retail sales this year are measured only during the traditional holiday period of Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, they were up just 2.4 percent whem compared to the same period of 2019. During the 75-day shopping window from Oct. 11 through Dec. 24, though, retail sales were up 3 percent when compared to the same period last year.
Mastercard reported that online shopping accounted for 19.7 percent of overall retail sales this holiday season, up from about 13.4 percent in 2019. This isn’t surprising: Many shoppers felt more comfortable staying home this holiday season because of the pandemic.
Home furniture and furnishings saw the strongest growth of any sector compared to 2019, up 16.2 percent. Online sales in this category grew 31 percent. Home improvement sales were up 14.1 percent.
Not all retail sales thrived during the holiday season. Apparel sales, for instance, declined 19.1 percent when compared to a year ago. Department stores saw an overall sales decline of 10.2 percent this holiday shopping season.