According to Mastercard SpendingPulse, holiday retail sales, excluding automotive and gasoline, increased 3.0 percent this expanded holiday season, running from October 11 through December 24. Notably, online sales grew 49.0 percent compared to 2019, the preliminary insights show.

Mastercard SpendingPulse measures overall retail spending trends across all payment types, including cash and check.

The gain was below 2019’s 4 percent gain but ahead of a forecast for 2.4 percent growth.

“American consumers turned the holiday season on its head redefining ‘home for the holidays’ in a uniquely 2020 way. They shopped from home for the home, leading to record e-commerce growth,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Incorporated. “And, consumers shopped earlier than ever before. Across our expanded 75 day holiday shopping season, sales were up 3.0 percent, a testament to the holiday season and strength of retailers and consumers alike.”

Key findings from Mastercard SpendingPulse underscore the shift to online spending, with e-commerce accounting for 19.7 percent of overall retail sales, up from approximately 13.4 percent in 2019. In addition, consumers continue to spend more time, and money, on their homes.

  • Home furniture and furnishings experienced the strongest growth of any sector compared to 2019, up 16.2 percent, and it grew 31.0 percent online specifically. In addition, home improvement was up 14.1 percent, with e-commerce sales up 79.7 percent.
  • Apparel experienced a decline of 19.1 percent year-over-year, while electronics and appliances were up 6.0 percent overall.
  • Department stores saw overall sales decline 10.2 percent and online sales growth 3.3 percent, reinforcing the importance of omnichannel offerings. Buy online, pick up in-store as well as technologies like contactless pickup were key for retailers.

This season, U.S. consumers shopped far earlier than in years past, as retailers offered special promotions early and often. In addition, though Black Friday was down (-16.1 percent), Thanksgiving weekend through Cyber Monday remained a key time for shoppers, with Black Friday being the top spending day of the 2020 holiday season.