Report: November holiday sales up 5.1%

NEW YORK — Retail sales rose 5.1% in November, as spending on home furnishings and consumer electronics helped offset a drop in sales of clothing and at department stores, a widely watched industry gauge shows.

Online spending, which accounted for 18% of total retail sales excluding autos, soared 52.6% in November compared to the same month last year, according to figures released today by Mastercard SpendingPulse.

The figures offer the latest evidence that shoppers during the pandemic have focused their spending on home-related activities and items while further shifting their buying online as they stay away from physical stores.

“The consumer is holding up reasonably well,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Inc.

The report measures spending across all payment types including checks and cash. It covered the period from Nov. 1 through Monday and excluded sales of vehicles and gasoline.

The spending pace in November was better than the 2.4% growth forecast for the overall holiday season, which runs from Oct. 11 to Dec. 24 and could be impacted in the final weeks before Christmas by surging coronavirus cases and the possibility of stores facing more restrictions.

Furniture and home furnishings jumped 16.3% in November, while electronics and appliances saw an 8.2% increase, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. Spending on groceries posted a 10.3% gain as shoppers went back to stocking up on essentials. But clothing suffered a 20.7% drop and department stores had a 14.6% decline.

Online, jewelry was a star performer, enjoying a 45.5% increase.