Holiday jewelry sales lost some ground to discounters

Consumers’ retail spending grew 6.5% for the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas shopping season, according to data showing MasterCard use during the period—a healthy rise compared with 2% to 3% gains in 2002, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The numbers, reflecting hundreds of millions of dollars in retail activity, are compiled by MasterCard Advisors, an information services unit of MasterCard International. The data were adjusted downward by MasterCard to reflect the extra day in the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas period this year. Including activity on that extra day, holiday retail spending on MasterCard rose 10.5% this year. The figures also don’t reflect purchases or exchanges made between Christmas and New Year’s Day, a period stores increasingly rely on to boost holiday sales.

Holiday shoppers kept retailers guessing down to the wire, WSJ reports. Department stores, jewelry stores, and toy stores all saw declines in spending, reflecting increased competition from discounters such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which sparked a brutal price war on toys. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart itself reportedly said Friday it expects holiday sales through Jan. 2 to hit the low end of the 3% to 5% gains it had been forecasting, citing weakness in women’s apparel and housewares.

Internet stores had strong gains. On Friday, Amazon.com told WSJ this was its busiest holiday season ever, including one day when it logged sales at a rate of 24 items per second. Sharper Image said same-store sales rose 21% from Dec. 1 to Dec. 24.