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Online Sales Set Record High This Holiday Season

American shoppers spent more online than in brick-and-mortar stores during the shortest holiday shopping season in six years, according to a new report from Mastercard.

E-commerce sales accounted for 14.6% of total retails and rose 18.8% from the 2018 period, according to data from the credit card company’s SpendingPulse data, which tracked retail sales from Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve.

“E-commerce sales hit a record high this year with more people doing their holiday shopping online,” said Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard. “Due to a later than usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omnichannel sales earlier in the season, meeting consumers’ demand for the best deals across all channels and devices.”

Overall holiday sales, excluding autos, spiked 3.4% — news that sent President Donald Trump to Twitter to proclaim. “[It’s] the biggest number in U.S. history. Congratulations, America!” he wrote.

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However, the president’s declaration of a 2019 record high for holiday sales may be exaggerated, at least according to Mastercard’s data. The company reported a 5.1% growth in total year-end holiday retail sales in 2018, larger than the 3.4% overall holidays sales bump in 2019.

Still, this was certainly a winning season for retailers who, due to a late Thanksgiving on Nov. 28, had six fewer days to drive sales before Christmas. The last shortened shopping season was in 2013, putting retailers and delivery companies under pressure to get orders to customers in time for Christmas. Since then, retailers have invested heavily in services such as same-day delivery and lockers for store pick-up to help shoppers tackle their shopping lists in time.

Apparel, in particular, experienced stronger than expected e-commerce growth this season, up 17% compared to 2018. Overall, the category saw a 1% gain year-over-year.

Comparing retail sectors, department stores continue to struggle, with overall sales declining 1.8%. Omnichannel remains a bright spot, however, with online sales climbing 6.9% in 2019.

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