Americans focused on nesting during the coronavirus pandemic help lift US holiday shopping sales

  • Holiday shoppers in the US spent 3% more than the previous year, led by online spending spikes on furniture and home improvement, says Mastercard.
  • "They shopped from home for the home, leading to record e-commerce growth," Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard, said in a statement. 
  • Online sales in the 75 days prior to Christmas jumped 49% from the same year-earlier period, the company said. 
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Holiday shoppers in the US spent 3% more than the previous year, led by online spending spikes on furniture and home improvement.

As might be expected, online retail boomed as in-person lagged, according to data released Saturday by Mastercard. 

The company said online sales in the 75 days before Christmas jumped 49% from the same year-earlier period. 

The biggest bump over last year came in home improvement, continuing a yearlong trend. As people stayed home during the pandemic, they spent more on making their surroundings comfortable. Online home improvement sales soared about 80%.

"American consumers turned the holiday season on its head, redefining 'home for the holidays' in a uniquely 2020 way. They shopped from home for the home, leading to record e-commerce growth," Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard, said in a statement. 

Holiday shoppers seemed to be focused on nesting, as online furniture and furnishing sales climbed 31%, and electronics and appliances climbed 6%. 

A rise in overall holiday spending — even by just 3% — will likely be met with cheers from retailers, many of which have had a difficult year bringing customers in.

"And, consumers shopped earlier than ever before. Across our expanded 75-day holiday shopping season, sales were up 3.0%, a testament to the holiday season and strength of retailers and consumers alike," said Sadove in a statement. 

The holiday shopping season is marked off differently by some firms, but for many, it begins on the day after Thanksgiving, so-called Black Friday. Foot traffic on that day in US stores had fallen 52%, while online sales climbed 22%, according to Sensormatic Solutions. Mastercard said on Saturday that sales that day fell 16% year over year. 

But "Thanksgiving weekend through Cyber Monday remained a key time for shoppers, with Black Friday being the top spending day of the 2020 holiday season," Mastercard said in a statement. 

In-store retail sales for items that are usually holiday staples slipped, as expected. In-person clothing sales dropped 19%, while luxury items dropped 21%, according to Mastercard.

In-person jewelry sales slipped 4%, while online sales rose 45%, according to Mastercard. 

Overall, in-person department store shopping fell 10%, but rose about 3% online. 

"Buy online, pick up in-store as well as technologies like contactless were key for retailers this season," said Mastercard. 

About 38% of US shoppers had planned to spend less this holiday season, according to a study from Deloitte.

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