Digital spending pushed up U.S. holiday retail sales but results came in below some forecasts

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Digital spending pushed up U.S. holiday retail sales but results came in below some forecasts


Holiday sales grew, but not by much.

During a remade shopping season, many Americans ditched stores for digital outlets. And pandemic buying trends that favored household goods and food over apparel continued, according to early sales data from firms that track shopper spending.

U.S. retail sales rose 2.4% between Nov. 1 and Christmas Eve compared with the same period last year, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks online and in-store spending with all forms of payment. Online sales grew 47.2% during that time, said the firm. The tally excludes sales of gas and autos.

That is below the 3.6% to 5.2% sales growth predicted by the National Retail Federation, an industry group, last month. A more complete picture of holiday spending will emerge in the coming weeks as the government reports December retail-sales figures and retailers report financial results.

“It’s going to be modest compared to what we have seen in the past,” said Rod Sides, head of the retail and distribution practice at consulting firm Deloitte LLP. Sides said sales are likely to rise a few percentage points, boosted by big-box and online retailers, as a surge in Covid-19 cases in recent months and new restrictions on public gatherings weighed on results. “The folks that are playing catch-up,” in retail, he said, “continued to play catch up.”

Among those that fared well were large retailers such as Amazon.com Inc.
AMZN,
-0.39%
,
 Walmart Inc.
WMT,
+0.20%

 and Target Corp.
TGT,
+0.16%
,
 with agile e-commerce operations already in place before the pandemic, and those selling products such as food, home goods, holiday décor and fitness supplies.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.



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