SpendingPulse 2009 Holiday Wrap-Up Report

MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, a macro-economic report tracking national retail and service sales, today provided summary results for the holiday shopping season. The data showed year-over-year growth in the period between Black Friday through December 24 in all sectors measured. In addition, six out of ten sectors showed positive growth in the period from November 1 through December 24. Tempering these results, however, is the fact that there was an extra day this year over last year’s holiday season. Adjusting for this could decrease the season’s year over-year-growth statistics by anywhere from 2% to 4%.

“Overall this year, we have seen increasing stability in spending, as opposed to the free-fall of 2008,” noted Michael McNamara, Vice President, Research and Analysis for SpendingPulse. “This is especially significant considering that prices have been holding up this season, without the broad emergency discounting that consumers benefited from during the 2008 holiday season.”

McNamara pointed to several anomalies in the season this year. “The extra shopping day may have given some lift to overall year-over-year comparisons. Also, early discounting in 2008 drew holiday spending into early November, while this year shopping didn’t really take off until Black Friday. That shift in sales patterns is one of the factors that made November of this year look weak, and December look stronger. That’s why it’s important to look at numbers for November and December combined.

Finally, several major winter storms disrupted traffic to brick and mortar locations that seemed to benefit online shopping growth rates.”

SpendingPulse analyzed the Electronics, Specialty (Apparel), eCommerce and Luxury sectors. Here are the end of season highlights:


eCommerce was the big winner this year, with seasonal sales up 15.5% during the period November 1 -December 24. Since Black Friday, eCommerce sales were up 18%. This sector has shown year-over-year improvement every week since the beginning of the season, with double- digit growth in all but one of those weeks.


Specialty Apparel made something of a recovery, finishing down only 0.4% for the season to date beginning on November 1st. Since Black Friday through December 24, the category is actually in positive territory, showing a 2.3% year-over-year gain. However, the extra shopping day helped the sales growth rates. Women’s Apparel sales were down 0.3% for the season to date beginning on November 1st. Taking a Black Friday to December 24 view, this category also finished the season in slightly positive territory, up 1.5%, but again benefiting from the additional shopping day. Men’s Apparel continued to show strength in the two weeks prior to December 24, bringing the November 1 – December 24 season’s year-over-year growth up 3.9%. Footwear sales have likewise improved, ending with an increase of 5% over the November-December period of last year.


After a strong November, electronics sales began to slow down in the first two weeks of December. A spike in the week prior to December 24 helped the category finish the season up 5.9% for the November-December period and up 6% in the Black Friday to December 24 period.

Jewelry and Luxury

After a volatile two months, Jewelry ended the season up 5.6%, with both high and low ends of the category showing marked strength. Again the extra shopping day helped the year-over-year growth rate. Although the Luxury retail ex-jewelry category showed some weekly improvement throughout December, it finished the season more with a slight increase of 0.8% over the 2008 holiday season. Luxury is another category that would have been lower without the additional shopping day this year.