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This Was Retail’s Best Holiday Season In 6 Years

This Was Retail’s Best Holiday Season In 6 Years

Shoppers spent more than $850 billion from November 1 through Christmas Eve, making this the best holiday shopping season in years.

Investors may be spooked, but shoppers sure aren’t.

Between November 1 and Christmas Eve, retail sales in the U.S. were up 5.1% to more than $850 billion, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which monitors spending in stores and online with all forms of payment. Online sales during this time were also up just over 19% from a year ago.

This comes amid turmoil in the stock market over concern about a slowing economy, the trade war, rising interest rates, and the partial government shutdown. Despite all this, consumer confidence has clearly remained strong which has translated into the strongest retail sales in six years.

Steve Sadove, former CEO of Saks and current advisor to Mastercard said that over the past few weeks, “many retailers were able to give consumers what they wanted,” resulting in stronger sales.

According to Mastercard, the strongest retail sectors included apparel, where sales were up nearly 8% during the holiday season—the best growth since 2010,—and home improvement, where spending was up 9%.

Analysts said that apparel companies had done a better job this year in managing inventory and keeping products fresh, though there will be still “losers” in the space.

“Not all apparel is doing great,” said Craig Johnson, president of retail advisory firm Customer Growth Partners.

Growth was the strongest among activewear retailers like Nike (NYSE: NKE) and discount companies like T.J. Maxx (NYSE: TJX), Johnson said. Winners like Lululemon (NASDAQ: LULU), Abercrombie (NYSE: ANF), and Old Navy (NYSE: GNP) started the season on a high note with strong sales over Black Friday weekend.

A few of these stocks climbed on Wednesday after the preliminary data was released by Mastercard. Lululemon is up nearly 7% since Wednesday and Abercrombie shares are up 11%.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) shares were up as much as 7.7% Wednesday after the online retail giant reported that it had another record holiday season, buoyed by demand for its devices, including the Echo Dot, and the Fire TV Stick 4K.

Department stores continued to struggled, and sales were down 1.3% from November 1 through Christmas Eve, Mastercard said, though department store e-commerce sales were up 10.2%.

“Department stores in aggregate have been losing market share and not performing like other sectors,” Sadove said.

In the coming weeks, stores will begin to report holiday sales figures and analysts will be watching to identify those companies that saw the most benefit from a stronger holiday season.

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