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Business Briefs

Retailers ring up their highest holiday sales in six years

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, 5:03 p.m.
Discount placards stand in the window of a clothing store as last-minute shoppers finish up their Christmas gift lists at the Cherry Creek Mall in Denver. Americans buoyed by a strong economy pushed holiday sales growth to a six-year high.
Discount placards stand in the window of a clothing store as last-minute shoppers finish up their Christmas gift lists at the Cherry Creek Mall in Denver. Americans buoyed by a strong economy pushed holiday sales growth to a six-year high.

Buoyed by a robust economy and pent-up demand, holiday shoppers rang up the highest retail sales in six years, according to a report out Wednesday by Mastercard.

The data — which is culled from all spending types, including credit cards, cash and checks — found that sales increased 5.1 percent, to more than $850 billion, from Nov. 1 to Christmas.

Online shopping grew 19 percent compared with last year.

Amazon.com reported it had a record-breaking season, but didn’t provide sales numbers. The company, with a double-digit growth rate, said it signed up “tens of millions” of people for its Prime membership, which provides free shipping for a $119 annual subscription fee.

Low unemployment rates and rising wages have been boosting consumer confidence, which in October hit its highest in a generation.

A turn of the calendar meant that retailers enjoyed an extra long window between Thanksgiving and Christmas, of five Saturdays and 32 shopping days. Many began offering the kind of deep discounts once reserved for the Friday after Thanksgiving weeks ahead.

Target offered free shipping with no minimum purchase and guaranteed a two-day delivery, in hopes of taking on Amazon.

“From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail,” Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Incorporated, said in a statement.

The Mastercard Spending Pulse analysis found that apparel was one of the leaders of the season, growing nearly 8 percent, the best mark since 2010. Sales of clothing have been accelerating since a strong back-to-school season.

Home improvement rose 9 percent, and the home furnishing and decor grew 2.3 percent.

Department stores declined, driven by the closures of the Bon-Ton chain and several Sears stores. Sales were down 1.3 percent, according to Mastercard, following two years of modest growth. Online sales for department stores grew 10.2 percent.

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