Media Moves

U.S. online sales hit record this Christmas shopping season

December 26, 2019

Posted by Irina Slav

Online sales this Christmas season broke a record, pushing total sales higher, too, a report from Mastercard has shown.

Nivedita Balu and Ismail Shakil reported the news for Reuters:

U.S. shoppers spent more online during this year’s holiday shopping season, a report by Mastercard Inc (MA.N) showed on Wednesday, with e-commerce sales hitting a record high.

The holiday shopping season is a crucial period for retailers and can account for up to 40% of annual sales. But this year, Thanksgiving, which traditionally starts the U.S. holiday shopping period, was on Nov. 28, nearly a week later than last year’s Nov. 22, leaving retailers with six fewer days to drive sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

E-commerce sales this year made up 14.6% of total retail and rose 18.8% from the 2018 period, according to Mastercard’s data tracking retail sales from Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve.

Overall holiday retail sales, excluding autos, rose 3.4%.

“E-commerce sales hit a record high this year with more people doing their holiday shopping online,” said Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard.

Rachel Frazin from The Hill wrote:

With Thanksgiving falling on Nov. 28 this year, there were fewer days during the traditional holiday shopping season compared with last year, when Thanksgiving was on Nov. 22.

President Trump touted the 3.4 percent gain in a tweet Wednesday.


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 25, 2019

The president referred to the increase as being a record high, but Mastercard spokesman William Tsang told Reuters that this year’s sales growth was not the largest ever.

Tsang said there was a 5.1 percent growth in total sales last year over 2017.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the differing numbers.

Trump has consistently touted economic gains under his presidency as one of his greatest accomplishments. The strength of the economy is expected to play a decisive role in his reelection bid.

The Financial Times’ Alistair Gray noted:

US retailers announced 9,300 store closures in 2019, according to Coresight, the most since the group began tracking the data in 2012. That is more than double the number of openings and is up sharply from the 5,844 closures announced last year.

Mastercard’ s figures showed department stores missed out on the festive cheer, posting a 1.8 per cent decline in sales over the period. Clothing sales were also slower than other items, up just 1 per cent.

However, Americans splashed out on electronics and appliances, with sales of those items up 4.6 per cent, while ecommerce sales were strong in several categories.

Shares in US retailers have been volatile this year as Wall Street has tried to weigh up the divergent financial performance of companies in the sector. The S&P retail select industry index lost 18 per cent between its highs in March and lows in August, but has since rebounded about 21 per cent.

Some retailers such as Target and Walmart have shown signs of adapting successfully to the changing environment while others such as fashion retailers Forever 21 and Barneys New York were forced into bankruptcy proceedings this year.

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