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Buoyed by eCommerce, U.S. Holiday Season Starts Strong with 4.6% U.S. Retail Growth in November

#SpendingPulse Finds Consumers Continue to Spend Big on Experiences

The holiday season is off to a solid start, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, which looks at U.S. retail sales trends across cards, cash and checks. Retail sales excluding auto and gas grew 4.6 percent in November compared to last year. Four-day Thanksgiving weekend sales also saw a bump from last year; however, the biggest trends coming out of Thanksgiving weekend debunk the traditions of yesteryear.

So, what were the biggest trends?

eCommerce was HUGE. While still a minority share of overall sales, eCommerce sales grew nearly 16% in November – up from high-single digit growth for the past twelve months. Over the traditional four-day Thanksgiving weekend, we saw eCommerce up more than 13%. Thanksgiving, it’s worth noting, saw tremendous double-digit growth in ecommerce.

Black Friday has expanded. Thanks to retailers’ aggressive “early and often” marketing strategies, shoppers had access to Black Friday deals as early as Sunday and Monday before. That contributed to a a softer Black Friday – sales on the big day itself were down.

Consumers lean in to experiential spending. Early holiday sales did not reverse retailers’ fortunes, as spending continued in the vein of trends seen throughout the year. Consumers continue to prioritize experiences, as evidenced by the three top growth categories in November:

  • Restaurants
  • Furniture
  • Lodging

“The big surprise to me has been the huge jump in eCommerce, as we know that many consumers prefer the customer service at brick and mortar stores. Is this the beginning of a bigger eCommerce trend or a holiday blip? The holidays typically attract more online sales than the rest of the year, so it will be interesting to see,” said Sarah Quinlan, SVP, Market Insights, MasterCard Advisors.