After several years of disappointing holiday sales, retail analysts told any and all financial media who would listen that this year would be different. With wages finally accelerating at their fastest pace since the financial crisis, and early indicators suggesting a boost in e-commerce ahead of the traditional holiday shopping season, with the National Retail Federation forecasting a sales bump of up to 4.8% to a combined $720 billion for November and December.
And with the holidays having only just passed, one early indicator suggests that the final total might be more optimistic than expected: According to Mastercard SpendingPulse, total U.S. sales (excluding autos) climbed 5.1% between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 compared with a year earlier. That means US consumers spent some $850 billion overall.
Per WSJ, this suggests that the recent market turbulence and a partial government shut down didn’t curb consumers’ appetite (though there were a few weak patches during the season, analysts attributed them to the timing of the Thanksgiving holiday).
“Wall Street is running around like a chicken with its head cut off, while Mr. and Mrs. Main Street are happy with their jobs, enjoying their best wage increases in a decade,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail research and consulting firm. A recent drop in gas prices has helped last-minute spending, he said.
Sales have been generally strong throughout the holiday season, led by increases in online shopping. Retailers entered the holidays with momentum as online sales jumped 26.4% from a year earlier between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through Black Friday, one sign of an early buying surge, according to Adobe Analytics.
Buying slowed in early December in part because an unusually early Thanksgiving made it harder for retailers to sustain sales through the entire holiday shopping period, analysts and consultants said. But shoppers picked up the pace ahead of Christmas.