Wednesday, 29 December 2021 11:56

US holiday sales increased 8.5 percent despite Omicron

NEW YORK CITY, New York: Despite higher prices, product shortages and the spread of the Omicron variant during the final few weeks of the season, U.S. holiday sales rose at the fastest pace in 17 years, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse.

Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks a variety of consumer payments, including cash and debit cards, reported holiday sales rose 8.5 percent from one year earlier, while expecting an 8.8 percent increase.

The results, which covered 1st November to 24th December, were fueled by clothing and jewelry sales.

Holiday sales also increased 10.7 percent, compared to the 2019 holiday period before the pandemic.

By category, clothing increased by 47 percent, jewelry by 32 percent, electronics by 16 percent, while online sales were up 11 percent from one year ago and 61 percent from 2019. Department stores recorded a 21 percent increase in sales in 2020.

Many consumers stayed at home and spent more online after Omicron struck, but overall sales have remained strong. "I feel really good about how the season played out," said Steve Sadove, senior adviser to Mastercard and former CEO of Saks Inc.

Fueled by early shopping that began in October in anticipation of product shortages, analysts, overall, anticipated a strong holiday season. Consumers are also keen to celebrate after the muted holidays of one year ago.

However, November witnessed a slowdown in retail sales, partly due to early shopping, while Omicron, which is now the dominant COVID-19 variant in the U.S., has forced many Americans to cancel their holiday plans.

The National Retail Federation said in early December that holiday sales were expected to top record-breaking forecasts for an increase of 8.5 percent to 10.5 percent, compared to the year-ago period. Holiday sales also increased 8.2 percent in 2020 when shoppers splurged on clothing and home goods, mostly online, due to pandemic lockdowns.

The National Retail Federation expects online and other non-store sales to increase between 11 and 15 percent, adding that holiday sales have recorded average rises of 4.4 percent over the past five years.