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Retail Holiday Sales Up 3.6 Percent

NEW YORK -- U.S. retailers saw stronger performance during the 2009 holiday shopping season, with sales up 3.6 percent, according to MasterCard Advisors' recent SpendingPulse report.

The increase was thanks to a 15.5-percent surge in online purchases, as well as a slight recovery in areas including luxury spending and women's apparel, according to the SpendingPulse survey that was cited by Reuters. SpendingPulse figures exclude gasoline and automobile sales, and tracks activity in the MasterCard payments networks as well as estimates for other payment forms such as cash and checks.

In 2008, retailers posted a drop in holiday sales, and saw the worst holiday performance in decades following the global financial markets crisis, the report stated.

"Last year the economy and consumer spending were in free fall. This year we're talking about an environment that has stabilized, that has seen a leveling off," Kamalesh Rao, director of economic research at SpendingPulse, said in the report.

Rao also cautioned that the return of retail spending was "tentative" and remains far below 2007 levels.
Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation forecast a 1-percent decline in holiday sales this year, Reuters reported.

In other holiday sales news, Christmas Day proved to be another big sales day for Dallas-based convenience store chain 7-Eleven Inc., as the company's stores stayed open Dec. 25 to serve the needs of last-minute holiday shoppers and others looking for items such as ingredients for holiday meals.

Sales jump 25 percent at the company as most other stores are closed, the Dallas Morning News reported. 7-Eleven stores sell 14 times as many Pillsbury crescent rolls on Dec. 25, as an average day, while wine sales spike 60 percent the week of Christmas and "As Seen on TV" products fly off the shelves, according to the report. Battery sales, meanwhile, triple during Christmas week.

In addition to seasonal food items such as whipped cream, pumpkin pie and stuffing mixes, 7-Eleven also stocks another necessity -- ice -- and sales of the chilly product between Dec. 24 and 25 are five times those from Dec. 22-23, the report stated.

Beer sales, however, vary during the holiday season, Margaret Chabris, 7-Eleven's spokeswoman, said in the report, with craft beers such as Samuel Adams and Shiner Bock No. 1 during Christmas week, while import brews Heineken and Corona taking the top spot during New Year's.

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