Online sales strong in short holiday shopping season
NEW YORK — More people did their shopping online this year during one of the shortest holiday shopping seasons in years, helping to push total sales higher.
Retail sales in the U.S. rose 3.4% between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 compared with last year, according to early data from Mastercard SpendingPulse.
Online sales rose at a faster pace, up 18.8% from last year. Online shopping made up nearly 15% of total retail sales.
Mastercard SpendingPulse tracked spending online and in stores across all payment types, including those who paid by cash or check. Sales of automobiles are not included.
Short season: Faced with the shortest holiday shopping season since 2013, stores were trumpeting deals even before Halloween with hopes of getting people to think about Christmas.
Thanksgiving landed on Nov. 28 this year, the latest possible date it could fall. That meant six fewer days than last year, forcing last-minute shoppers to scramble. The Saturday before Christmas was the busiest shopping day in U.S. history, surpassing Black Friday, according to research firm Customer Growth Partners.
Amazon, which stepped up its one-day deliveries this year, said more people tried out its $119-a-year Prime membership this year than any other year, adding more than 5 million new customers in a single week. Members get faster shipping and other perks, such as movie streaming.
Mastercard said overall clothing sales rose 1%. Jewelry sales increased 1.8%. Sales of electronics and appliances rose 4.6%. And furniture sales grew 1.3%.
Department stores, which have been hit hard by the rise of online shopping, still had trouble getting shoppers in their doors: total sales fell 1.8%, Mastercard said.
Christmas Day does not signal the end of the fight for shoppers, however.
Retailers are all but certain to offer steep discounts through at least New Year’s Day in hopes of snaring those who did not get all they had hoped for in the shortened holiday shopping season, said C. Britt Beemer, CEO at America’s Research Group, a consumer behavior firm.
“You’re going to see a bunch of larger crowds in the stores,” Beemer said.
AP Radio Correspondent Julie Walker in New York also contributed to this story.