Holiday sales boosted by fear of empty shelves

Lily Jamali Dec 27, 2021
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With shoppers hunting for presents earlier, retailers enjoyed the strongest holiday sales growth in nearly two decades, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse report. Brandon Bell via Getty Images

Holiday sales boosted by fear of empty shelves

Lily Jamali Dec 27, 2021
Heard on:
With shoppers hunting for presents earlier, retailers enjoyed the strongest holiday sales growth in nearly two decades, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse report. Brandon Bell via Getty Images
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With the caveat that omicron could dim the economic outlook for retailers as more people choose to stay home, we just got an early picture of the all-important holiday sales season. And things look pretty decent.

New data indicates that consumers showed up big-time, with holiday sales surging 8.5% from last year.

You know all those stories you heard this fall — including here — about snarled supply chains and product shortages? Well, it sounds like a lot of you were listening.

Steve Sadove, a former CEO at Saks who’s now with Mastercard, said it wasn’t the doorbusters driving holiday shoppers as much as fear of empty shelves.

“They were out shopping earlier, even though the discounts weren’t as deep as you might have seen in prior years,” he said.

The Mastercard SpendingPulse report showed those early birds helped drive the strongest growth in holiday shopping in 17 years — much of it online. The largest surges took place in apparel, which was up almost 50% from last year. Jewelry sales were up more than 30%.

“We are convinced we’re going to get out of our sweatpants for New Year’s,” said Greg Portell, a retail analyst at the consulting firm Kearney. “We’re starting to adjust our consumer habits in order to find those little luxuries.”

The hunt for those little luxuries drove the oddest purchase on Portell’s own holiday shopping list this year. “My daughter loves cow paintings. So, she got a 3-foot-by-3-foot picture of a cow.”

Portell bought the painting in person.

Despite the explosive growth of online shopping during the pandemic, we still make most of our purchases the old-fashioned way.

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