Holiday Online Sales Surge, Data Shows

Seasonal shopping ticks higher, as cyber spending jumps almost 19% from 2018 levels
woman shopping online in her holiday sweater

Santa Claus won out over Scrooge this year, with new data released Thursday showing an increase in holiday sales, especially online.

While the 2019 holiday shopping season saw a successful 3.4% rise in sales over last year’s, online sales sharply outpaced the broader gains with an 18.8% jump. The results echoed 2018’s 18.4% increase in online holiday sales vs. 2017.

Overall for the 2019 holiday season, e-commerce made up 14.6% of total sales.

These were among the findings in the SpendingPulse report by Mastercard Data & Services, which provides transaction data and analytics to businesses. The study looked at consumer spending patterns from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24. Data not only included transactions made by credit and debit cards, but also those using cash or checks.

A growing number of consumers avoided brick-and-mortar department stores to shop instead on those stores’ websites, the report found. Department stores saw an overall decline in sales of 1.8%, even as their online sales rose 6.9% this holiday season versus last year.

Many of this year’s online shoppers took advantage of Cyber Monday deals. In fact, Cyber Monday accounted for nearly a quarter — 24.5% — of holiday spending this year. By comparison, Black Friday accounted for 15.4% of the season’s shopping.

Still, this year’s shopping calendar was a little different, as Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard, noted: “Due to a later-than-usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omnichannel sales earlier in the season.”

Looking specifically at online sales, the report found certain categories chalking up particularly big gains:

  • Consumers spent 17% more online on apparel than in the year before, though overall sales for this category rose a modest 1% from 2018.
  • Online sales of electronics rose 10.7%, with sales in all channels up 4.6%.
  • Online sales of jewelry were 8.8% higher than last year’s, though overall jewelry sales gained just 1.8%.

While the holiday shopping season is officially over, consumers may still be in the buying mood if they are making holiday returns. Now is a good time to review your holiday spending and see whether you stayed on budget or spent more than you planned to spend.

If you did overspend, this could be the perfect time to reset your budget for the new year and get back on track. And if you did stay within budget this year, you could set new goals for 2020.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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