Economy Watch: Holiday Retail Sales Saw Uptick in ’15

Consumer spending for the holiday season is very positive.

Official December retail sales figures will be out shortly, but so far one survey of consumer spending for the holiday season is very positive, which should cheer up retailers and their landlords. According to MasterCard SpendingPulse, which examines at U.S. retail sales trends across cards, cash and checks, retail sales—excluding autos and gas—grew 7.9 percent during the Black Friday to Christmas Eve shopping season in 2015.

Overall, according to MasterCard, apparel saw high single-digit growth during period, with women’s apparel sales rising by double-digits. Men’s apparel, by contrast, declined. The delayed cold weather pushed back apparel buying this fall, so there was pent-up demand following Black Friday, the company posited. Furniture sales were another winner, surprisingly enough, since it’s been a tough decade so far for that sector (with a good many retail locations shutting down).

The holiday sales season also boosted the fortunes of relatively small retailers, namely those with less than $50 million in annual sales. MasterCard senior vice president Sarah Quinlan noted that such retailers have outpaced larger retailers in terms of percentage sales growth for the last four years or so. “We want that experience, even when we’re shopping for a good,” she told Reuters.

Quinlan called such an environment challenging for the likes of department stores, but not impossible. “The key thing is, how do they create that store-within-a-store? How do they make each department personized?” she said.

At the same time, e-commerce grew roughly 20 percent compared to last year, MasterCard report. That isn’t a total surprise, since 70 percent of U.S. consumers report doing more research online than before, according to the company. Certain incentives then make it easy to transition from research to buying online, such as free or fast shipping.