Holiday sales surged 8.5% over last year

Even with the omicron variant and supply issues, holiday sales were stronger than expected

The holiday shopping season just wrapped up, and while experts already projected a strong spending season, the actual numbers are even better than predicted.

Holiday sales grew at their fastest rate in 17 years, despite the growing omicron variant, higher prices, inflation and product shortages, with an extra dose of spending coming right at the end of the season.

The figures come from Mastercard Spending Pulse, which records payments of all kinds, including cash and debit cards. Mastercard Spending Pulse released their holiday sales report on Sunday (Dec. 26), stating that holiday sales had gone up 8.5% over the same period last year. Mastercard SpendingPulse had predicted a 7.4% year-over-year increase, so the actual numbers outpaced expectations.

The date range for the study was from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24. The two industries that grew the most were clothing and jewelry. Going by specific categories, clothing went up 47%, jewelry 32% and electronics 16%. Online sales rose 11% from last year and 61% from 2019. Department stores enjoyed a 21% increase in sales over last year. For items that weren’t purchased in the store, online sales made up the difference.

Holiday sales were also 10.7% higher than pre-pandemic levels during the 2019 holiday period.

While overall holiday sales were up, November was a slower month for retail, since many shoppers picked items up early to avoid missing out on hard-to-find gifts. The omicron variant could play into post-Christmas sales, too, as the version of COVID-19 has quickly become the dominant variant in the U.S. Even if omicron is a factor, consumers are expected to shift spending habits online instead of in-person, so spending numbers could be a wash.

The National Retail Federation, America’s largest retail trade group, will release its two-month retail results in mid-January, which will give more insight into holiday sales. The report will feature analysis of the November and December sales figures via the Commerce Department.

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