US holiday shopping season best in six years: report

Dec 26 (Reuters) - Sales during the U.S. holiday shopping season rose 5.1 percent to over $850 billion in 2018, the strongest in the past six years, according to a Mastercard report, as shoppers were encouraged by a robust economy and early discounts.

The data includes in-store and online sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24. The National Retail Federation had forecast U.S. holiday retail sales to rise between 4.3 percent and 4.8 percent in November and December.

"From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail," said Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard.

Near full employment and rising wages have boosted consumer spending, which in October hit its highest in nearly two decades.

The data also indicated that consumer confidence was not dented by recent volatility in the U.S. stock markets and worries over slowing global growth.

With Christmas Eve falling on a Monday this year, customers got an extra day for shopping.

Not surprisingly, online sales posted strong gains, rising 19.1 percent, according to the SpendingPulse retail report, published by Mastercard's analytics arm.

Amazon.com Inc said on Wednesday it had a "record-breaking" holiday season, with a billion items shipped for free with Prime in the United States alone.

RELATED: Take a look at the retailers that filed for bankruptcy in 2018:

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Every retailer who filed for bankruptcy in 2018
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Every retailer who filed for bankruptcy in 2018

A'gaci

Women's apparel and accessories retailer A'Gaci filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January. 

Photo credit: Getty

Kiko USA

Cosmetics retailer Kiko USA Inc filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January.

Photo credit: Getty

Tops Markets

Tops Markets operates 174 supermarkets — called Tops Friendly Markets. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in February.

Photo credit: Getty

The Bon-Ton Stores

The Bon-Ton Stores owns multiple department store chains including Bon-Ton, Bergner's, Boston Store, Carson's, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's, and Younkers. The company filed for bankruptcy in February.

Photo credit: Getty

Remington Outdoor

Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

Photo credit: Getty

The Walking Company

The shoe seller The Walking Company, which operates 208 stores in the US, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

Photo credit: Getty

Claire's

The jewelry chain Claire's filed for bankruptcy in March.

Photo credit: Getty

Southeastern Grocers

Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of the grocery chains Winn-Dixie, Harveys and Bi-Lo, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

Photo credit: AOL

Nine West

Nine West Holdings filed for bankruptcy in April.

Photo credit: Getty

Bertucci's

Italian casual-dining chain Bertucci's filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April.

Photo credit: AOL

Rockport

The footwear brand filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May.

Photo credit: Getty

National Stores

The owner of the Fallas chain of discount stores filed for bankruptcy in August.

Photo credit: Facebook

Brookstone

Brookstone filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August.

Photo credit: Getty

Samuels Jewelers

Samuels Jewelers filed for Chapter 11 with an agreement for bankruptcy financing in August.

Photo credit: Facebook

Toys R Us

Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy in September.

Photo credit: Getty

Mattress Firm

Mattress Firm filed for bankruptcy in October.

Photo credit: PA

Sears

Sears filed for bankruptcy in October.

Photo credit: PA

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The company's shares rose 2 percent in early trading.

In contrast, sales at department stores slipped 1.3 percent, after two years of below 2 percent growth, largely due to store closures. But online sales grew 10.2 percent for the group, indicating heavy investments in e-commerce to tackle continuing drop in store traffic was bearing fruit.

Target Corp's shares rose 1 percent, while those of Walmart Inc were marginally up.

Apparel and home improvement spending had a strong season with growth of 7.9 percent and 9 percent, respectively. But sales of electronics and appliances dipped 0.7 percent, compared with a 7.5 percent rise last year.

The SpendingPulse report tracks spending by combining sales activity in Mastercard's payments network with estimates of cash and other payment forms and excludes automobile sales.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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