An initial report of 2021 U.S. holiday fulfillment retail sales indicates that spending rose to an all-time high among all retail channels on a year-over-year basis.

The report issued by Mastercard SpendingPulse over this weekend, which was syndicated by the Associated Press, reported that retail sales, excluding automotive sales, increased 8.5 percent between the period of November 1 and December 24.

The composition by channel was reported as an 11 percent increase in online sales and an 8.1 percent increase within in-store sales.

Reportedly, while the 8.5 percent growth was less than the 8.8 percent growth that Mastercard had predicted going into this period, it was the largest annual increase in over 17 years.

It would appear that clothing, with a sales level increase of 47.3 percent, and jewelry, with a sales increase of 32 percent were leading categories of sales increases this year.

A word of caution is in order since this is the first of other holiday sales reports that will be published over the coming days. Of further clarification which often does not garner prominent mention is that data also indicates that upwards of an estimated 35 percent of holiday purchases will be subject to merchandise return this year. It will take a few additional weeks for individual retailers to calculate their net sales and holiday volume activity after accounting for any refunds or merchandise swap activity.

Retail industry planners and analysts will further be seeking quantification as to how much out-of-stocks hampered holiday sales volumes this year and whether that will translate to an uplift in first quarter sales volumes, or an inventory overhang.

In October, Supply Chain Matters highlighted the various watched holiday sales forecasts issued by Deloitte, Adobe Analytics and the National Retail Federation.

The Mastercard SpendingPulse’s reported 8.5 percent overall growth was in the range of the 7 percent to 9 percent growth number, and the lowest end of the online sales growth number indicated by Deloitte. The Mastercard actual 11 percent online growth number is one percent more than what Adobe Analytics had forecasted, and beyond the high end of 10.5 percent of that indicated by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

What is remarkable in this data was that this year, the Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping period, typically the busiest and highest volume holiday sales period, experienced muted activity this year, in line with forecasted volumes. This was interpreted to indicate that consumers indeed began their holiday shopping much earlier, anticipating merchandise shortages for the most in-demand items.

Supply Chain Matters will continue to highlight additional holiday sales data as it becomes available to add our additional perspectives.


Bob Ferrari

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