Record Online Sales Boost US Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday season is always rife with shopping deals but this year more Americans stayed home than flocked to the malls as online shopping numbers hit a record high. A recent report from Mastercard, released on Wednesday, shows that e-commerce sales are up this year, and much more than might have been expected.  

Of course, the holiday shopping “season” is an important part of the sales year for all retailers. As a matter of fact, some data suggests this tiny part of the year—basically the last six weeks-or-so—can account for as much as 40 percent of a company’s annual sales. Traditionally, Thanksgiving kicks off this holiday season, with the day after Thanksgiving—known as “Black Friday”—usually the biggest day of retail sales in the entire year.  But this year, Thanksgiving fell on November 28th—the latest possible day of the month—which gave shoppers six fewer days to fill their Christmas lists. 

Not to be discouraged, however, US shoppers remained resilient and headed to their phones and laptops instead of the brick-and-mortar stores downtown.  This year, e-commerce made up 14.6 percent of total retails sales.  That might not seem like much but it is up nearly 19 percent over last year’s numbers, according to Mastercard’s retail sales data tracking from November 1 through December 24.  

Most importantly, perhaps, overall holiday retail sales—excluding automobiles—grew 3.4 percent.  

And the numbers are not just important, they are also impactful.  Mastercard senior adviser Steve Sadove comments, “E-commerce sales hit a record high this year with more people doing their holiday shopping online. Due to a later than usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omnichannel sales earlier in the season, meeting consumer demand for the best deals across all channels and devices.”

Retailers have invested heavily on efficient deliver and improved online presence since the last “shortest shopping seasons,” which was 2013.  This is easy to see when you look at how much better the online shopping experience has become: not just in terms of the web interface but among things like secure locker pickup, same-day delivery, easy in-store pickup, and more.