2018 Holiday Shopping Season Reaches Six-Year High

It seems as though many retailers have reason to celebrate about now as a new report indicates that the 2018 holiday shopping season was the strongest in years. According to a MasterCard report, this year’s sales (measured from November 1st to December 24th) were up 5.1% over 2017 and managed to top $850 billion. Moreover online sales continued to grow at an accelerated rate, with this year’s numbers besting the previous year’s totals by 19.1%.

Among the verticals experiencing the best gains was home improvement, which saw sales increase 9% over last year. Elsewhere apparel sales also got a nice boost, growing 7.9% year over year — the biggest gain the sector has had since 2010. Despite that, department store sales fell slightly, down 1.3% from 2017. That said online sales for these retailers improved 10.2%. Finally, when it comes to big purchases, electronics and appliances were off from last year (-0.7%) while home furniture sales increased 2.3%.

In a press release announcing this year’s figures, Mastercard senior advisor (and former Saks Incorporated CEO) Steve Sadove elaborated on the findings, saying “From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail.” He added, 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.”

The gains documented in Mastercard’s report actually exceed predictions made by the The National Retail Federation. As Reuters notes, the NRF had expected an increase between 4.3% and 4.8% for this season’s sales. However, driven by a strong economy that includes near-full employment, it seems Americans opened their wallets even further both in-store and online.

Thankfully it seems the shopping season wasn’t disrupted by the turbulence on Wall Street. In case you missed it, this Christmas Eve was the worst on record as the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 650 points. While that particular index managed to retain its bull status, the S&P 500 wasn’t as lucky and is now said to be in a bear market after diving 20% from a 52-week high.

It should also be noted that, while holiday sales were strong overall, it may be too early to see how struggling retailers — namely Sears — were affected. At last check the once-great department store chain, which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, was still seeing slumping sales. If that’s the case, the iconic retailer may have just seen its final holiday season. Meanwhile Amazon is reporting a “record-breaking” season, shipping billions of gifts with Prime shipping in recent weeks. These two realities mixed with uncertainty about where the economy will go in the next 11 months means it’s really anyone’s guess what the 2019 shopping season will bring.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded DyerNews.com in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

Other Articles by Jonathan Dyer

Bilt Rewards Launches Travel Portal with Benefits for Cardholders

Last year, the startup Bilt made a splash when it announced a new service that would reward users for paying their rent. That premise was then expanded upon with the launch of the Bilt Mastercard, which is issued by Wells Fargo. Now, continuing to capitalize on both the hype of their product and the demand for travel, Bilt has debuted another new offering for customers. This week, Bilt Rewards announced...

Cash App Introduces Round-Up Investing Feature for Debit Card

Debit card customers looking to grow their investments gained a new, automated option today as Block Inc. (formerly Square Inc.) officially announced a new feature for its popular Cash App. Now, customers with the Cash App Cash Card can opt into Round Ups as a means of growing their investments. When this feature is toggled on, Cash App will round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invest...

Marqeta Expands Credit Program with New APIs and More

A FinTech that specializes in creating credit card experiences is rolling out some new features. This week, Marqeta announced what it calls a "significant expansion" of its credit platform. This includes more than 40 new credit APIs that will further help clients craft and launch their own credit card products. Additionally, the company notes an updated intuitive dashboard. Using this platform, businesses can create unique card options that can not...