In the first major post-holiday report, Mastercard has projected that U.S. retail sales from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24. grew 8.5 percent year-over-year and 10.7 percent against the pre-pandemic 2019 period. The gains were attributed in part to early holiday purchases incentivized by out-of-stock concerns.

The gains also reflected early promotions, the mountain of pandemic savings consumers have built up in the last two years, and comparisons against pandemic-driven restrictions for in-store shopping in the 2020 holiday season.

Some holiday themes surfacing include: 

  • Online gains more share: E-commerce sales in the traditional holiday period grew 11.0 percent year-over-year and 61.4 percent against 2019. E-commerce made up 20.9 percent of total retail sales, up from 20.6 percent in 2020 and 14.6 percent in 2019.
  • In-store selling bounces back: With pandemic-related restrictions and concerns reduced, sales at physical stores rose 8.1 percent compared with 2020 and 2.4 percent compared with 2019. The gains came despite a slowdown in-store traffic in recent weeks due to a near absence of foreign tourists and the return of infection fears due to the omicron variant. Visits to retail stores dropped 26.3 percent on Super Saturday (December 18) compared to 2019, but were still up 19.4 percent year over year.
  • Traditional categories bounce back: With traveling and socializing resuming, apparel sales bounced back, climbing 47 percent compared with 2020 and 29 percent over 2019. Jewelry sales jumped 32 percent and 26 percent from 2020 and 2019 levels. Electronics were up 16 percent and 20 percent respectively.
  • Inflation boost: Higher prices bolstered the gains as inflation hit a nearly four-decade high in November.
  • Packages arrive: ShipMatrix estimated that nearly all deliveries from FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service would have arrived by Christmas Eve. Investments in carrier capacity including adding more sorting machines, new facilities or more weekend deliveries helped offset broader supply challenges such as truck driver shortages. Early buying was credited with easing network strains.


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