By Brecken Branstrator
New York--Despite a shorter shopping period and severe weather, early numbers indicate that holiday sales increased year-over-year, with jewelry cited as one of the season’s best-selling categories.

According to data from MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report released Thursday, between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 sales rose more than 2 percent as compared with the prior-year period. SpendingPulse tracks customer spending on apparel, electronics, jewelry, luxury, and home furniture and furnishings during the holiday season.

This year’s report showed that of all the categories monitored during the season, jewelry was the best performing as well as one of the few that improved on its performance from 2012.

Total apparel also saw modest growth, while luxury and electronics were flat.

“The holiday shopping results are in line with expectations, but several factors impacted retail sales this year,” Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president, market insights for MasterCard Advisors, said in a statement. “Having six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as bad weather in some parts of the country for the final two weekends of the season clearly had an effect on sales. Yet holiday sales were a clear improvement over last year’s weaker numbers. One clear bright spot is that many consumers who were stuck indoors turned to online shopping to check items off their list and that helped drive e-commerce growth.”

Online spending was a big driver for retail sales growth this year, as it has been for the past several years.

According to SpendingPulse, e-commerce sales showed low double-digit year-over-year growth for the season. And the most recent numbers from Reston, Va.-based digital analytics firm comScore indicate that U.S. retail e-commerce spending from desktop computers for the holiday season through Dec. 22 hit $42.8 billion, a 10 percent increase over a year ago.

While the holiday season ended up--and jewelers reported a strong last weekend before Christmas--this was not the case for all retailers.

According to ShopperTrak, in-store sales between Dec. 16 and 22 were down by 3 percent from the same week last year despite heavy promotions and markdowns.

Brick-and-mortar shopper traffic also fell, decreasing by 21 percent compared with the same period last year.

The promise of a “Super” Saturday fell short for many retailers of general merchandise, apparel, furniture and other products, as Dec. 21 saw a decline in both traffic and sales. According to ShopperTrak, Dec. 21 retail sales were down nearly 1 percent while foot traffic decreased nearly 18 percent compared with the same day last year.

“Consumers have really gravitated toward ‘virtual’ window shopping, meaning that they are doing a lot of their research online beforehand. They have 24-hour access to all information now,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in an interview with National Jeweler.

Martin noted that early promotions from stores in November and earlier opportunities for consumers to get the most value for their money has been pushing sales and traffic down in December, as the shopping season increasingly gets spread over more days.

The data release comes on the heels of ShopperTrak reporting that both sales and traffic were down for the week prior, from Dec. 9 to 15, as well as for the week of Dec. 2 to Dec. 8.

However, the firm is still predicting that retail sales will rise 2.4 percent in November and December as compared with last year, despite the recent numbers.

“We think that the strength of November will keep that on track, as well as the redemption of gift cards still to come, which will likely be used on Dec. 26 and the weekend after Christmas,” Martin said. 

Get the Daily News >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.