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MasterCard: Mid-season holiday spending growth slows

Purchase, N.Y. -- A SpendingPulse report released Monday by MasterCard Advisors found that after a three-week recovery of retail spending growth that started two weeks after Superstorm Sandy and lasted through the week ending Dec. 1, a slowdown occurred in the week ending Dec. 8.  

After a surge in growth in late November some key sectors such as Specialty Apparel slipped into negative growth in early December, according to the report.

“Given the season’s modest start, the numbers we’re seeing so far are highlighting the importance of the last two weeks of the season,” said Michael McNamara, global solutions leader, MasterCard SpendingPulse. “After a brief recovery in growth rates after Sandy, holiday sector sales growth has again subsided.”

Based on the inconsistent growth patterns during the 2012 season to date, McNamara said the stretch run is even more important than it has been over the last few years and that Super Saturday – the last Saturday before Christmas – “is going to have to live up to its name,” he said.

MasterCard Advisors expects that, based on historical daily patterns, this year retailers should get the benefit of a full Saturday of sales that could rival Black Friday sales levels north of $18 billion.

In 2011, the final 10 days before Christmas generated almost $147 billion in retail sales volume, according to MasterCard Advisors, accounting for nearly 24% of the holiday shopping season (defined as the 50 days before Christmas).  

MasterCard SpendingPulse estimated that $18.9 billion was spent on Black Friday this year, a year-over-year decline of 4.9%. However, on Thanksgiving Thursday, $6.2 billion was spent, a much smaller number, but representing a 23% growth rate. When Thursday and Friday are taken together, there was a 2.1% year-over-year growth over the same two days last year. For the four days of Thanksgiving weekend taken together, there was a 2.9% growth rate, $50.2 billion versus $48.8 billion last year. The Specialty Apparel sector did relatively well during this period, growing 3.1% on Black Friday and approximately 15% on Thanksgiving Thursday, albeit off a smaller base.