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January 2, 2019

US apparel retail has best holiday season in 8 years

By Leonie Barrie

A surge in spending has helped US apparel retailers to their best holiday shopping season in eight years, according to data that tracks consumer purchases.

Across the total apparel category, sales from before Thanksgiving through Christmas grew 7.9% compared to 2017 – recording the best growth rate since 2010 – according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks spending both in stores and online across all payment types.

It said the apparel category followed through on a strong momentum that started during the back-to-school season and accelerated through fall right up to Christmas.

Overall, holiday sales increased 5.1% to more than $850bn this year – the strongest growth in the last six years. Online shopping also saw large gains of 19.1% compared to 2017.

“From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Incorporated. “By combining the right inventory with the right mix of online versus in-store, many retailers were able to give consumers what they wanted via the right shopping channels.”

The Mastercard SpendingPulse report details holiday shopping from 1 November through 24 December.

Findings also show department stores finished the season with a 1.3% decline from 2017. This follows two years with growth below 2%, some of which can be attributed to store closings. However, the online sales growth for department stores indicated a more positive story, with growth of 10.2%.

Poor weather posed an issue during some primetime shopping periods. This included cold weather on Black Friday morning on the East Coast and wet weather conditions the weekend of 15-16 December, on both the East and West coasts. Conditions were also less than ideal on 21 December, in the East, with storms that impacted the final run of the season.

The numbers seem to tally with the forecast from the National Retail Federation (NRF) for a rise of between 4.3% and 4.8% in holiday retail sales during November and December, reaching a total of US$717.45bn to $720.89bn.

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