According to a study from Mastercard SpendingPulse, holiday retail sales (excluding automotive) increased 8.5% year-over-year this holiday season, running from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24. Notably, online sales grew 11% compared to the same period last year, per preliminary insights from Mastercard’s in-store and online retail sales measurements across all forms of payment.
Mastercard's findings underscore the strength of the holiday shopper across channels, with consumers returning to stores (up 8.1% year-over-year). Other key findings included:
Consumers shopped early. Continuing a key trend from 2020, U.S. consumers shopped earlier than in years past, as retailers offered special promotions early and then again later in the season as shoppers raced to secure "guaranteed by Christmas" shipping offers. Looking at Mastercard's expanded holiday season, total retail sales were up 8.6% year-over-year for the 75 days between Oct. 11 and Dec. 24.
Thanksgiving weekend remained key. Black Friday again marked the top spending day of the 2021 holiday season. For the Thanksgiving weekend running Nov. 26-28, shoppers drove U.S. retail sales up 14% year-over-year. In-store sales also rebounded, increasing 16.5% while e-commerce sales experienced sustained growth, up 5%.
Smaller boxes had a big impact. The jewelry sector experienced some of the strongest sales growth compared to last year and the year prior.
E-commerce sales snowballed. E-commerce made up nearly 30% of total retail sales, up from 20.6% in 2020 and 14.6% in 2019. The channel continues to experience elevated growth as consumers take advantage of holiday browsing and buying from home.
"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," said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Inc., in a recent media release. "Consumers splurged throughout the season, with apparel and department stores experiencing strong growth as shoppers sought to put their best-dressed foot forward."