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Holiday Season: U.S. Consumers Focus on Experiences

While retailers across the country opened their doors to bargain seekers on Thanksgiving, Americans marched through November and started the holiday season focused on friends and family.

According to the latest SpendingPulse, total U.S. retail sales increased by 2.3 percent in November 2014, led by the lodging, hardware and restaurant sectors. Total retail sales – without the automotive and gasoline sectors – was up 3.6 percent, reinforcing the dramatic decline in gasoline prices.

Experiential Shopping

Looking specifically at the start of the holiday season, total Thanksgiving weekend retail sales increased 0.9 percent over 2013, reflecting the continued confidence of the American consumer.  With this initial performance, SpendingPulse forecasts total retail sales to grow 5.5 percent for the entire holiday season.

“These numbers reinforce that we can expect the holiday shopping season will be lengthened straight through the month, as opposed to focusing solely on one ‘make or break’ day,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president at MasterCard Advisors.  “Consumers continue to focus on experiences like dining out, going to the theatre and traveling.  As they round out their lists, we expect them to continue to look for the right deals, combined with a more personalized experiential touch.”

Historically, Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be the biggest shopping days of the holiday season for certain industries, but not every sector sees its greatest uptick that week.  In fact, the final days before Christmas, including “Super Saturday” – the last Saturday before the holiday – are expected to result in the greatest activity.

“Over the past several years, consumers have learned how to squeeze every last benefit out their holiday purchases,” said Quinlan.  “Two things retailers and shippers can expect this season are procrastinators hunting for that perfect gift that will bring a smile to family and friends, and an increased demand for express shipping as three of the top five shopping days will take place in the final week.”

For additional insights into U.S. retail sales and what is driving these trends, check out MasterCard’s Market Insights on-demand webinar series.