Was it a merry Christmas for retailers? - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Was it a merry Christmas for retailers?


NEW YORK (Reuters) -- The jury is still out, and many factors marred the holiday season for retailers, but one widely-watched survey released Thursday shows that the nation's merchants may have fared better than the 2012 holiday shopping season.

Sales during the 2013 U.S. holiday season grew from a year earlier as retailers used higher discounts and promotions to attract customers in a season with fewer shopping days, according to MasterCard Advisors.

Holiday sales between November 1 and December 24 rose 2.3 percent, compared with 0.7 percent a year earlier, data published in the MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse report showed on Thursday.

"It was actually a Merry Christmas for retailers," Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president at MasterCard Advisors, told Reuters, adding jewelry was the best-performing category.

SpendingPulse tracks customer spending on apparel, electronics, jewelry, luxury and home furniture & furnishings categories during the holiday season.

Analysts have called the 2013 holiday season as the most competitive since the recession in 2008, as many Americans battle stagnant wages, higher taxes and the impact from the government shutdown.

Retailers, in response, have slashed prices and used other promotions to lure customers in a season that typically generates 30 percent of sales and 40 percent of profits.

Even though the 2013 holiday season had six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as bad weather that affected sales in some parts of the country, holiday sales were a clear improvement on 2012 numbers, Quinlan said.

Last year's sales were hurt by Superstorm Sandy, by mild weather that blunted sales of winter clothing, and by rising concerns about the "fiscal cliff."

Total retail spending rose 3.5 percent, MasterCard Advisors said.

Sales of apparel saw modest growth mainly due to children's clothing, while sales of men's and women's apparel fell, Quinlan said.

Luxury and electronic sales were flat while eCommerce sales showed low double-digit percentage growth, SpendingPulse data showed.

The National Retail Federation in October forecast sales for the months of November and December to marginally increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion, from 2012's actual 3.5 percent growth.

SpendingPulse and the National Retail Federation look at different categories, which can cause some variation in their forecasts.

Overall Christmas Day online sales rose 16.5 percent from a year earlier, according to IBM Digital Analytics.

A high volume of holiday packages overwhelmed shipping and logistics companies UPS and Fedex, delaying the arrival of Christmas presents around the globe.

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