Early data shows strongest US holiday retail sales in years: report

Holiday shopping sales this year were the strongest they have been in six years, according to data from Mastercard SpendingPulse.

Consumers in the U.S. spent more than $850 billion on online and in-store purchases between Nov. 1 and Dec. 21 this season, up 5.1 percent from last year. 


That included a 19.1 percent increase in sales from online shopping and, according to The Wall Street Journal, a 47 percent jump in sales in which consumers completed the purchase online and then picked up the item in-store.

Sales at department stores, however, were down 1.3 percent from last year. 

Steve Sadove, a senior adviser for Mastercard, said in a statement that "consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail.”

“By combining the right inventory with the right mix of online versus in-store, many retailers were able to give consumers what they wanted via the right shopping channels," he added.

The retail numbers come as the U.S. faces a tumbling stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 653 points on Monday, marking the worst Christmas Eve performance of stocks on record. The S&P 500 is down more than 20 percent from its peak in August. 

Steve Barr, the consumer markets head at the consulting firm PwC, told the Journal that there is "heightened risk" regarding what 2019 could bring for retailers, given the performance of stocks.

“While we haven’t seen the consumer retreat, I do think there is a heightened risk with volatility in the capital markets and rising interest rates and uncertainty in Washington, D.C.,” Barr said. “Retailers are a bit on edge about what 2019 might be.”