The newly released SpendingPulse report from MasterCard tells the story of a holiday season unable to recover from being kicked off by one of the worst storms in history. Many retailers who had been anticipating a flood of holiday shoppers, instead found themselves mopping up from Hurricane Sandy. Power outages from the storm also impacted online shopping.
The SpendingPulsereport, which looked at the period between October 30 and December 24, showed that overall holiday spending had a gain of only 0.7% over the same period last year. The data, which includes retail sales from credit cards, cash, and checks, includes only holiday spending categories like apparel, electronics, online sales, jewelry, and furniture.
“The widespread power outages in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast related to Hurricane Sandy got the season off to a difficult start in November.While still positive, growth rates were reduced to single digits,” said MasterCard’s Michael McNamara.
Online spending during that period showed an 8.4% growth rate. There were 19 days where sales were over a billion each day. Two categories that saw significant sales were electronics and specialty apparel. Both had a relatively high percentage of online sales.
“We estimate that over 20% of holiday specialty apparel sales took place online, with electronics enjoying a slightly higher ratio. With both categories clearing over 20% of their share of sales online, we really start to see the online channel graduate to an even more significant level of importance,” said McNamara.
Spending in stores
The geographic differences between regions hit by Sandy and the rest of the country were clear in the spending in brick-and-mortar stores.
“You really did have two kinds of results, depending on the region – one had a relatively negative season, while the other was more in line with the lower end of expectations,” explained McNamara. “The Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and North Central regions of the country all lagged the national average growth.”