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MasterCard: Holiday retail sales rise 5 percent

Holiday retail sales in 2017 increased 4.9 percent over the previous year, the largest year-over-year increase since 2011, according to the latest MasterCard SpendingPulse report.

The report, which tracks retail spending by all payment types, found that consumer confidence, innovative retail strategies, robust online shopping activity and last-minute gift-buying produced the record-setting numbers. 

"Overall, this year was a big win for retail," Sarah Quinlan, MasterCard senior vice president of market insights, said in the release.

Quinlan said that while the strong U.S. economy was a contributing factor, an upgraded customer experience helped, as well.

"We also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase," she said.

Key findings from the report:

  • Electronics and appliance sales increased 7.5 percent, the strongest showing in 10 years. The home furniture and furnishings category grew 5.1 percent, as did home improvement.
  • Specialty apparel and department stores, which traditionally see the bulk of sales in-store, recorded moderate gains. 
  • Heavy early-season promotions paid off for retailers with significant jumps in the first three weeks of November.
  • Shoppers spent late into the season; Dec. 23 rivaled Black Friday in terms of single-day spending. This was a boon to categories such as jewelry, which grew 5.9 percent, largely due to last-minute sales.