Holiday Retail Sales Soared, With E-Commerce Notching Huge Gains

Mastercard SpendingPulse data showed an 8.5 percent jump in total sales, with online ordering up 11 percent from last year.,

Retail sales in the United States jumped nearly 11 percent this season compared with the holiday period in 2019, the year before the pandemic upended the global economy, according to a report Mastercard published on Sunday.

The report, Mastercard SpendingPulse, showed an 8.5 percent increase in retail sales over the holiday season, defined as Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, compared with last year. The figures exclude automobile sales.

Sales in stores were up 8.1 percent compared with last year, while e-commerce sales were up 11 percent. Compared with 2019, before the pandemic brought about an explosion of online ordering, e-commerce sales jumped over 61 percent.

Online sales made up 20.9 percent of all retail sales this year, according to the Mastercard report. In 2019, online sales accounted for just 14.6 percent of all retail sales, underscoring how the pandemic has accelerated the shift to e-commerce.

In a statement, Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard, said many Americans got their Christmas shopping done early this year. “Shoppers were eager to secure their gifts ahead of the retail rush,” he said, “with conversations surrounding supply chain and labor supply issues sending consumers online and to stores in droves.”

Indeed, despite early fears, holiday shoppers received their gifts mostly on time, with many shopping early and in person. Retailers, as well, placed merchandise orders early and tried to head off other bottlenecks. For their part, delivery companies ramped up hiring to handle the deluge of packages, which crushed the Postal Service last year. Nearly all packages delivered this year by UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service arrived on time or with minimal delays, according to ShipMatrix.

While the holiday period starts on Nov. 1 according to the Mastercard accounting, Thanksgiving weekend, the traditional start to holiday shopping, was crucial for retailers. Black Friday, Mastercard noted, was the top day for spending during the holiday season, and spending for the entire long weekend was up 14 percent compared with last year.

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