By Ashley Davis
Purchase, N.Y.—According to Mastercard’s annual SpendingPulse report, holiday 2018 retail sales were up 5 percent over last year.

It’s the strongest growth in six years, with sales totaling $850 billion. Online sales experienced the greatest growth this year, increasing 19 percent from 2017.

The annual report tracks all types of spending, even cash and check, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24.

Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Inc., said: “From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail.

“By combining the right inventory with the right mix of online versus in-store, many retailers were able to give consumers what they wanted via the right shopping channels.”

While retail was up overall, certain categories fared better than others this holiday season.

A spokesperson for Mastercard said sales in the jewelry category, which they define as encompassing both fine and costume jewelry, rose about 4 percent from 2017.

Apparel saw its highest growth since 2010, increasing by 8 percent from last year.

Home improvement was another strong performer, rising 9 percent, a trend that began before the holiday season commenced, Mastercard said.

Sales of electronics and appliances, meanwhile, were down 0.7 percent, while sales of home furniture and furnishings increased 2 percent.

Channel-wise, department stores’ total sales slipped 1 percent during the period, after increasing less than 2 percent for two years in a year. However, their online sales were up 10 percent.

Mastercard said that the overall positive holiday season was affected by bad weather. Cold weather struck the East Coast on Black Friday, and both the East and West coasts experienced wet weather conditions the weekend of Dec. 15-16.

Additionally, the East Coast experienced storms on Friday, Dec. 21.

Mastercard bases its SpendingPulse report on aggregate sales activity in the Mastercard network, as well as estimates based off surveys for payments in the form of cash and checks.

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