Although the numbers may be subject to some changes in the coming weeks, there’s evidence that the 2018 holiday season produced solid sales for both retailers who operate in brick-and-mortar locations as well as those selling online.
Some of the positive data is found in a Mastercard SpendingPulse report from the Purchase-based credit card giant and U.S. visitor counts from the Simon Property Group, which operates in North America, Europe and Asia. Simon’s holdings include The Westchester in White Plains, The Shops at Nanuet, Woodbury Commons in Central Valley and the Crystal Mall in Waterford, Connecticut.
“Internet clearly is performing exceptionally well — we saw 19.1 percent growth of online sales — but roughly 87 percent of sales still are taking place in a store,” Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard, told the Business Journal. Sadove provided an analysis of the SpendingPulse report on holiday shopping from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, which showed total sales growing 5.1 percent from last year’s level to reach $850 billion, the strongest growth in six years.
Sadove’s background includes serving as CEO and chairman of Saks Incorporated, chairman of the National Retail Federation, chairman of the Harvard Business School Club of New York and president of Clairol.
Mastercard has developed algorithms which take into account sales on all brands of credit cards, as well as debit card and cash sales. “The numbers we are talking about are for the totality of retail, not just the Mastercard section, so it gives you a full perspective of what’s going on,” Sadove said.
“Even the brick-and-mortar was up a little more than 3 percent during the holiday season, so it’s not that brick-and-mortar is going away,” he said. Sadove noted that some retailers are moving to create an omni-channel experience for customers by adapting to the internet and the ubiquity of mobile devices, and are “ … having to be sharper, not just in price, but in providing a unique differentiated experience.”
Sadove told the Business Journal that a healthy bottom line for retailers depends on their ability to get product into the hands of their customers. “They want it anywhere, anytime they want to be able to buy it. They may buy it online. They may pick it up in a store. They want it shipped from a store. They want quickly delivered product at great prices.”
Sadove noted that sales in the department store sector were down 1.3 percent during the holiday season. “That’s a small sliver of the total retail pie and, within department stores, there are some winners and some that are losers.”
Les Morris of mall operator Simon noted that data from across its portfolio of properties showed a 2 percent overall uptick in traffic at the start of the holiday shopping season. “Some properties were showing 3 percent to 9 percent increases over last year,” Morris told the Business Journal.
Morris said that although final numbers for Christmas week weren’t yet available, there was no reason to back away from the optimism expressed just after Thanksgiving by David Simon, chairman and CEO of the company, who said, “The strong economy and positive consumer sentiment, along with an attractive range of deals, festive activities, dining and entertainment, all combined to deliver excellent traffic for our centers, brands and retailers.”