U.S. holiday retail sales rise 3% as online shopping booms- Mastercard report

(Reuters) -U.S. Retail sales rose 3% during this year's extended holiday season from October 11th to December 24th, a report from Mastercard Inc said on Saturday, fueled by a pandemic-induced shift towards online shopping.
According to the report from Mastercard SpendingPulse, US e-commerce sales rose 49% for this year's holiday shopping season. This underscores the role of the COVID-19 pandemic in changing customer shopping habits.
Holiday e-commerce sales represented 19.7% of total retail sales that year. The data showed that options such as online purchase and in-store contactless pickup were crucial for retailers.
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The holiday shopping season can make up most of the annual sales of certain retailers. However, due to the health crisis, several retailers, including Walmart Inc and Target Corp, which have faced capacity constraints in certain stores, rolled out their vacation promotions early.
Ecommerce giant Amazon.com Inc has also postponed its annual summer promotional event to October, marking a longer than ever Christmas season for retailers who haven't made sales for several weeks during the blackouts earlier this year.
"This was a healthier holiday season than many had predicted," said Steve Sadove, Mastercard's senior advisor, in an interview with Reuters.
Sadove assumes that the digital trend will continue to increase in 2021. Smaller retailers are also using new technology to offer customers new shopping opportunities.
People staying at home longer due to expanded guidelines for home work and distance learning have fueled demand for home decor and home improvement products. Retail sales in the home furniture and home furnishings category rose 16.2%, according to the report.
Electronics and home appliances also rose 6% over the period as a reduction in dining, travel and leisure spending encouraged shoppers to make other purchases.
Apparel and jewelry sales overall decreased, but e-commerce sales increased 15.7% and 44.6%, respectively.
The SpendingPulse report tracks spend by combining sales activity on Mastercard's payments network with estimates of cash and other forms of payment, but excluding auto sales.
(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam, Nivedita Balu and Anirudh Saligrama in Bengaluru; editing by Pravin Char and Alexandra Hudson)

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