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Holiday Sales Soared This Year As Online Shopping Spiked, But Still Accounted For Only 10 Percent Of Total Spending

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The holiday shopping season turned out to be a bonanza for retailers in 2015, with sales spiking significantly over those of the last several years. Online shopping increased by more than double the rate of regular retail sales, but still accounted for just a small portion of overall sales.

Retailers were worried at first as the holiday shopping season appeared to get off to a slow start, but things turned around in the period between Black Friday and Christmas Day, according to a report just released by MasterCard SpendingPulse. The company analyzed holiday shopping figures by consumers using various payment methods – cash, credit and debit cards and checks.

During the measured period, overall sales increased a healthy 7.9 percent, up from a 5.5 percent gain last year. Big ticket items like furniture, cars and major appliances were on consumers shopping lists, as prior fears about jobs and the economy took a back seat to holiday spending.

"The consumer is feeling confident and roaring back, investing in their homes and lifestyles," announced Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president of MasterCard Advisors.

Online shopping showed a much bigger increase than overall spending, rising a full 20 percent this year. Still, the online tally pales by comparison with overall physical retail sales, accounting for just 10 percent of the total money spent on holiday shopping this season.

Consumers apparently didn't mind buying items that were not on deep discounts, as shopping at smaller retailers that can't afford the big price cuts offered at huge national chains increased significantly despite the higher priced goods.

However, his year saw a decrease in sales of electronics items, which was due to lower prices for technology items. Women's clothing sales showed healthy gains even though many reports indicated unusually warm winter weather would leave much of this season's apparel on the racks. Men's clothing, on the other hand, showed a big decline because of the reluctance of women, who make 75 percent of men's clothing purchases, to cough up dollars to outfit the guys in their lives, opting instead to spend their money on their homes or on themselves.

Investment bank Nomura is reporting that big sales this year are extending well past Christmas Day, the traditional end of the holiday season, with Dec. 26 rivaling Black Friday as one of the biggest shopping days of the year. The bank also named some winners in the retail field – Macy's, JCPenney, Nordstrom and UGG, all of which continue to offer significant promotions and discounts as 2015 draws to a close.

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