Holiday Sales Soft, Per Survey

NEW YORK A report released today by MasterCard Spending Pulse characterizes overall sales during the holiday season as “soft,” continuing a trend of decelerating growth that began in the second quarter.

Electronics and higher end/luxury retail sales were generally stronger than the national average, but apparel sales lagged.

Spending Pulse reports are based on aggregated sales activity of the MasterCard U.S. payments network, coupled with estimates on other payment forms including cash and check. Spending estimates are for the holiday season from Black Friday through Dec. 24.

The report finds the retail economy is still growing but at a slower pace than it has grown for the past two to three years. The unadjusted overall growth rate for total retail sales, excluding auto, is up approximately 6.5 percent over 2005, but this includes an extra shopping day in 2006. When adjusted for the extra shopping day, the increase comes in at a rather soft 3 percent over the 2005 holiday season.

Big-ticket sales drove the early portion of the season, while the lower end of the price spectrum picked up toward the end of the season, according to the report.

Warm weather conditions across the country may have negatively impacted some cold weather segments of apparel, while disruptive weather across the northern and central areas of the country impacted those regions.

Sales of women’s, children’s and family apparel generally lagged the national growth rates, while department stores, men’s apparel and footwear generally helped total specialty store comparisons on the upside.

Electronics experienced solid sales growth.

E-commerce sales did well in the second half of the season, with total growth in the 20 percent range and adjusted growth in the upper teens. Sales peaked during the week of Dec. 11.

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