The Pandemic Didn’t Affect Holiday Spending. Data Shows Americans Wore Out Their Credit Cards Like Usual.

FILE - A woman carries shopping bags, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in New York. U.S. consumer spending fell 0.4% in November, the first decline since April, as Americans confronted a newly resurgent virus. The Commerce Department reported Wednesday, Dec. 23, that the November decline followed a 0.3% gain in October and even bigger increases starting in May as the country emerged from a pandemic lockdown that had been imposed to try to stop the spread of the virus. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

According to a SpendingPulse report from Mastercard Inc., U.S. retail sales rose 3% during this year’s pandemic-affected holiday shopping season. E-commerce sales were the driving force in the holiday bump, jumping 49% this year.

The report confirms COVID-19’s role in transforming customers’ shopping habits. The National Retail Federation estimated that the number of people who only shopped online jumped 44% during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

For those who did head out to the stores for their shopping, they were able to take advantage of holiday sales earlier. Major retailers including Target and Walmart extended their holiday shopping season as they anticipated occupancy constraints in their stores.

All the time spent at home during the pandemic seemed to fuel a demand for home improvements and home décor, with retail sales in that category jumping more than 16%.

In an interview with Reuters, Mastercard senior advisor Steve Sadove said the holiday-season sales boost was welcome news. “This was a healthier holiday season than many had forecast,” Sadove said. He also said he expects the digital trend to continue to grow into 2021.

Amazon basically kicked off the holiday shopping this year, with their “Amazon Prime Day” promotion being moved to October from their typical mid-July sales event due to the pandemic.

The SpendingPulse report tracks spending by combining sales activity in Mastercard’s payments network with estimates of cash and other payment forms. The report excludes automobile sales.

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