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Brisk Clothing Sales Power 8.5% Holiday Retail Growth: Mastercard

Mastercard’s holiday sales data is in, and the results seem to cap off a bounce-back year for retail.

Sales for the Nov. 1-Dec. 24 stretch came in at 8.5 percent not including automobiles, according to Mastercard Spending Pulse, higher than its pre-season projection for 7.4 percent and in line with the 7 percent to 9 percent growth in Deloitte’s forecast.

Clothing sales were especially brisk, rising 47.3 percent over last year, and 29.0 percent from two years ago, according to Mastercard, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment. Consumers also returned to department stores, sending sales in the channel up 21.2 percent from last year though the growth over 2019 was a more modest 11 percent. Jewelry led growth across categories as sales jumped 32 percent and 26.2 percent over 2020 and 2019, respectively.

More than one-fifth of retail sales, or 20.9 percent, came through e-commerce, edging out 2020’s 20.6 percent growth. For comparison, the 2019 increase of 14.6 percent corresponds with the channel’s trajectory before the pandemic supercharged digital growth amid lockdowns last year. What’s more, online sales leaped 11 percent compared to 2020 and 61.4 percent from two years ago.

“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. “Consumers splurged throughout the season, with apparel and department stores experiencing strong growth as shoppers sought to put their best dressed foot forward.”

Despite the strength in digital, stores weren’t left out of the growth story. Mastercard said in-store sales expanded 8.1 percent year over year. Consumers shopped earlier this year, with many enticed by October retail promotions and a race to get ahead of shipping delays and supply chain disruptions, it added.

Though Mastercard’s holiday report shows strong results for retail, the numbers come in at the low end of the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 8.5 percent to 10.5 percent year-over-year growth projections, or $843.4 billion to $859 billion. Because NRF looks at sales through Dec. 31, it won’t release its seasonal data until next month.