2020 has been a year like no other for consumers and retailers alike. While that won’t stop families from celebrating the holidays, it will impact how, where and when consumers spend. According to Mastercard SpendingPulse™, which measures overall retail sales across all payment types including cash and check, the holiday shopping season is already well underway, having kicked off in mid-October amidst major cyber promotions.
During this newly expanded holiday season, running from October 11 through December 24, Mastercard SpendingPulse has forecasted U.S. retail sales to grow 2.4% excluding automotive and gas, compared to the same time period last year. Notably, overall retail sales excluding automotive and gas during that initial holiday kickoff week of October 11 grew 8.3% compared to 2019**, with e-commerce sales increasing 66.5%.
Traditional Holiday Period
November 1-December 24
75 Days of Christmas
October 11-December 24
Total retail (ex. auto and gas)
Total retail (ex. auto)
Source: Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures overall retail sales across all payment types, including cash and check
In terms of what consumers are buying this holiday season, home furnishings, athleisure and electronics are expected to outperform when compared to other sectors.
While this holiday season will look different from state to state and family to family, there are a number of overarching trends to watch—as well as other factors, such as future stimulus decisions, that could impact sales forecasts. As part of its ongoing insight series, Mastercard’s Recovery Insights: The Evolving Consumer looks at changing consumer habits, and what that means for retailers, including:
- Online, anytime points to record e-commerce highs: Online sales growth has fueled retail through the pandemic. With social distancing measures in place and health concerns running high, e-commerce’s share of overall retail sales is expected to jump from approximately 14% in 2019 to over 20% in 2020.
- ‘Tis the season—earlier than ever: While Black Friday used to kick off the official countdown to the holidays, shopping will start much earlier this year. We saw cyber deals offered starting in October with major e-commerce promotions serving as important milestones. We can expect this to continue into November with Singles Day in China and extending through the season.
- Shopping local, shopping small. With mobility impacted by the pandemic, and many consumers still working remotely and children attending school virtually or on a limited in-person basis, many consumers turned to their neighborhood stores and suppliers. This shrinking “retail radius” is also contributing to the shift to e-commerce.
- Travelers remain grounded: With international travel restricted, many families will be staying home—or traveling locally this holiday season. This will have a ripple effect, impacting larger cities as well as the luxury stores and hospitality companies that cater to overseas tourists.
- Reimagining brick and mortar stores—with a focus on the omnichannel experience: Caution and convenience remain top of mind for many consumers, and retailers are responding accordingly. Buy online, pick up in store as well as technologies like contactless will remain important as retailers establish innovative ways to allow this type of low-contact experience.
“This year may look different than years past, but I’m optimistic as the sales outlook is far better than economists might have expected earlier in the year. To put it in perspective, the 2008 recession saw holiday season declines of -3.5%*, so this could be a happy holidays indeed,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Incorporated.
*excluding auto and gas sales
**week of October 11-17, 2020, compared to the week of October 13-19, 2019
About Mastercard SpendingPulse
Mastercard SpendingPulse reports on national retail sales across all payment types in select markets around the world. The findings are based on aggregate sales activity in the Mastercard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for certain other payment forms, such as cash and check.
Mastercard SpendingPulse defines “U.S. retail sales” as sales at retailers and food services merchants of all sizes. Sales activity within the services sector (for example, travel services such as airlines and lodging) are not included.