By Brecken Branstrator
Purchase, N.Y.--Holiday retail sales saw their largest increase since 2011 this year, according to MasterCard, due to strong consumer confidence and more online and late-season shopping.  

The company’s SpendingPulse report showed that holiday sales were up almost 5 percent this year, setting a new record for dollars spent. (MasterCard did not release the final dollar amount.)

The report details holiday shopping from November 1 through December 24 and covers retail sales across all payment types, including cash and check.

It also showed that online shopping saw massive growth of 18 percent when compared with 2016, boosted by plenty of late-season shopping.

Other key findings of the Mastercard SpendingPulse report include the following.

--Many shoppers were focused on home-related purchases. Electronics and appliances increased by nearly 8 percent, the category’s strongest growth in the past decade. Home furniture and furnishings, meanwhile, grew 5 percent, as did home improvement.

--Specialty apparel and department stores, both of which usually see the bulk of sales happening in store, saw moderate gains, which is “particularly impressive given recent store closings,” MasterCard said.

--Heavy promotions early in the season by retailers paid off, with the first three weeks of November seeing significant growth.

--Shoppers also were spending late into the holiday season, with Dec. 23 falling only after Black Friday in terms of single-day spending. This was a boon to certain categories, including jewelry. Jewelry grew 5.9 percent, largely driven by last-minute sales.

“Evolving consumer preferences continue to play out in the aisles and online sites of retailers across the U.S.,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president of Market Insights, Mastercard. “Overall, this year was a big win for retail. The strong U.S. economy was a contributing factor, but we also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase.”

Though the National Retail Federation has not yet released its final holiday sales numbers--it will do so in mid-January--CEO Matthew Shay issued the following statement to National Jeweler:

“This holiday season’s big winners--in addition to consumers--were retailers of all shapes and sizes across all segments. From online and luxury retailers to department and discount stores, from Main Street to mega stores and everything in between, traffic and sales were generally up. In October, NRF forecasted holiday retail sales to increase between 3.6 and 4 percent for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion. When we issue our final holiday retail sales numbers in early January, we anticipate meeting or exceeding the higher end of that forecast.”

ShopperTrak, which monitors foot traffic in retail stores, has also released some figures for the holiday season.

According to the firm, in-store retail traffic on Super Saturday (Dec. 23) increased 20 percent compared with last year’s Super Saturday, supporting its belief that the importance of the day increases based on its proximity to Christmas Day.

As there was a full weekend before Christmas Day this year, with both Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 providing shopping opportunities, retail traffic increased more than 145 percent during the overall weekend when compared with last year.

Additionally, Saturday, Dec. 16 and Sunday, Dec. 17 saw a 3 percent increase in traffic when compared to last year’s Super Saturday Weekend.

However, the work week (Dec. 18 through Dec. 22) significantly underperformed when compared with the work week leading into Christmas Day last year, showing a 13 percent decrease in shopper traffic.

Looking ahead, one of the 10 busiest shopping days still remains: Saturday, Dec. 30.

To capitalize on shopper demand, retailers will need to make sure their store is stocked with all the right product assortments and price points, ShopperTrak said.

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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.