Online shopping has been the bright spot in U.S. retail this year, and a new report shows that consumers leaned heavily on e-commerce channels this holiday season in particular.
According to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracked all forms of consumer spending (including cash and check) from Oct. 11 to Dec. 24, holiday retail sales—excluding cars and gas—grew 3% this year. And online sales grew approximately 49% compared to 2019.
Jewelry, which the report broke out as its own category, saw a 44.6% increase in e-commerce sales, compared to 2019—though jewelry sales dipped 4.3% during the same period overall.
The e-commerce explosion is easily explained. Millions of Americans steered clear of public spaces, including stores and shopping complexes, this year at the urging of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their state and local governments. At-home online shopping was already in growth mode in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic caffeinated its trajectory: Online sales accounted for 19.7% of overall retail sales in 2020, up from approximately 13.4% in 2019.
The study also found that U.S. consumers shopped “far earlier” than in years past, as retailers offered special promotions earlier than usual.
That resulted in a shake-up of the biggest spending days this year. Black Friday was, as usual, the No. 1 sales day during the holidays (though it was lackluster—sales dipped 16.1% compared to 2019). But the second biggest spending day was the Saturday following Black Friday, Nov. 28, usurping Super Saturday, which is typically a top-three shopping day—but this year came in 7th. The third biggest shopping day was Dec. 12, a Saturday.
The consumer category that saw the strongest growth this holiday was home furnishings, which saw sales grow 16.2% overall year over year, and 31% online, according to the report. It follows that home improvement spending was up 14.1%, with e-commerce in that category spiking an astounding 79.7%. Apparel continued to decline (19.1% year over year), while electronics and appliances were up a modest 6%.
(Photo: Getty Images)
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