U.S. Retail Sales Grew 5.1% in 2018 Holiday Season

January 8, 2019 by
Nico Hoeijmans


A MasterCard report shows a robust holiday shopping season for the American market. Holiday sales increased 5.1% to more than $850 billion this year. This is the strongest growth in the last six years. Online shopping also saw large gains of 19.1% compared to 2017. “From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail,” says Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard. “By combining the right inventory with the right mix of online versus in-store, retailers were able to give consumers what they wanted via the right shopping channels.”

Key findings of the report indicate that, despite weather challenges, this was a winning holiday season for retail overall. However, the story was different category by category:

  • Total apparel had a strong season with a growth rate of 7.9% compared to 2017, recording the best growth rate since 2010. The category followed through on a strong momentum that started during the back-to-school season and accelerated through autumn right up to Christmas.
  • Home improvement spending continued to surge across the U.S., with spending during the holiday season up 9.0%. This trend started before the holiday season and helped the sector power through to a strong finish.
  • Department stores finished the season with a 1.3% decline from 2017. This follows two years with growth below 2%, some of which can be attributed to store closings. Online sales growth for department stores indicated a more positive story (10.2% growth).
  • Electronics and appliances were down 0.7% while the home furniture and furnishings category grew 2.3%.


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