Good News for Retail: Holiday Numbers Look Stronger Than Expected

The retail sector saw holiday sales numbers jump by nearly 5 percent, according to an estimate by Mastercard. That would be the largest such jump since 2011—and the National Retail Federation sees holiday sales outpacing its own estimates, too.

If you found yourself at the store or online in the past few weeks, you’re partly responsible for some of the retail industry’s rosy news of late.

Just after Christmas, the credit card giant Mastercard reported that holiday sales increased at a rate of 4.9 percent from the prior year—the largest jump in year-over-year spending seen since 2011. The increase, per the company, was helped by a variety of factors, including an increased number of specials, and a holiday season that included an extra weekend. The fact that shoppers could head to the store on December 23 was a huge boon, per Mastercard Senior Vice President of Market Insights Sarah Quinlan.

“[When] two people in a family are working, weekends are the time to do everything—life management as well,” Quinlan told The Washington Post. “To give them two days to do this type of regular shopping, it’s so important for them.”

A Tough Year for Retail

The news comes as a positive outcome for the retail sector, which has faced a spate of major closures throughout the year.

Companies like Toys R Us, Payless ShoeSource, and Gymboree filed for bankruptcy this year, while other retailers like The Limited and RadioShack shut down or closed nearly all of their locations in 2017. In comments to CNN Money this week, International Council of Shopping Centers CEO Tom McGee characterized the closures as part of a “state of flux” the sector is constantly in.

“The whole image of the demise of traditional retailing is overblown,” McGee said to the news outlet.

Nonetheless, the closures have been so dramatic this year that landlords have felt compelled to use their contracts to force companies like Whole Foods and Starbucks to keep businesses running.

Beating Projections

Mastercard’s numbers well outpaced the National Retail Federation’s own projections, made in October, that found that consumers would increase their retail spending by between 3.6 percent and 4 percent. In comments to the Post, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said that the industry was likely to outdo its own estimates, and that it was seeing positive results in a variety of retail areas.

“This holiday season’s big winners—in addition to consumers—were retailers of all shapes and sizes across all segments,” Shay told the newspaper. “From online and luxury retailers to department and discount stores, from Main Street to mega stores and everything in between, traffic and sales were generally up.”

NRF expects to have its own holiday data available in mid-January.

(beer5020/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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