For online retailers, it’s the most wonderful time of year — the busiest spending season. From Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, the holiday season, U.S. retail sales increased 3.1% year over year, according to a Mastercard SpendingPulse report. Meanwhile, holiday online retail sales grew more than double the rate of total retail sales.
That data excludes automotive sales. Mastercard SpendingPulse says it measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment and is not adjusted for inflation.
“This holiday season, the consumer showed up, spending in a deliberate manner,” said Michelle Meyer, chief economist at the Mastercard Economics Institute. “The economic backdrop remains favorable with healthy job creation and easing inflation pressures, empowering consumers to seek the goods and experiences they value most.”
Did online holiday sales grow in 2023?
Online holiday sales in 2023 grew from Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve, Mastercard found, and so did in-store sales.
And to give more detail, online retail spending increased at a faster pace than in-store spending. In-store sales grew 2.2% year over year, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. Yet online retail sales increased 6.3% year over year in the same period, taking “a considerably larger portion of total retail spending.”
“Retailers started promotions early this season, giving consumers time to hunt for the best deals and promotions,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Incorporated. “Ultimately it was about getting the most bang for your buck as consumers spent on a variety of goods and services, resurfacing spending trends from before the pandemic.”
Online holiday sales growth by category
Mastercard SpendingPulse broke out year-over-year data for key retail categories. It did not differentiate online and in-store sales growth and declines. Instead, it provided year-over-year changes in total sales for each category.
Among the five categories it broke out, restaurants grew the most, at 7.8%. Apparel grew 2.4%, closely followed by grocery at 2.1%.
That grocery sales growth extended to web sales as well. Online sales accounted for 11.7% of total weekly grocery spending in the last week of November, according to data from the monthly Brick Meets Click and Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey. United States online grocery sales reached $8.1 billion in November. That’s 5.2% growth over November 2022’s online grocery sales, which reached $7.7 billion.
Conversely, Mastercard found, electronics sales decreased 0.4% year over year, and jewelry sales decreased 2.0%.
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