U.S. Retail Spending Rose 8.5% During the Holidays, Despite Omicron Fears

Holiday retail sales grew this year, suggesting that pandemic worries did not eliminate strong consumer demand this holiday season.

Between Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, U.S. retail sales grew 8.5% year over year, according to data from Mastercard SpendingPulse, which monitors retail sales via Mastercard payments and survey-based estimates for cash and check payments. Sales grew 10.7% compared to 2019.

In store sales were up 8.1% from 2020, as shoppers returned to physical stores this year. Online sales grew 11% year over year and 61.4% compared to 2019 and made up 20.9% of total retail sales this year.

The growth this season was, in part, due to a shift to shopping earlier in the season to secure items amid widespread stock-outs and shortages from supply chain disruptions. According to Adobe data, shoppers spent $99.1 billion online between Nov. 1 and Nov. 28, marking a 13.6% growth from 2020. The growth was partly driven by supply chain concerns as well as early deals that rolled out through October and November.

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

In the report, Mastercard also noted strong results for Thanksgiving weekend, with U.S. retail sales up 14.1% year over year, driven by in-store and online sales.

Holiday sales numbers this year suggest recovery in retail spending, even as supply chain issues persist and inflation hits historic highs. In general, American spending patterns have been on the upswing. Consumer spending rose 0.6%, or by $104.7 billion, in November compared to October, according to recent data from the Commerce Department.

As such, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said it expects sales in November and December to grow as much as 11.5% year over year.

Despite encouraging numbers, it remains to be seen how sales will be impacted as COVID-19 cases rise amid the spread of the Omicron variant.

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