MasterCard: Strong growth in December across many retail sectors

Purchase, N.Y. -- Retail growth in December sales was robust across many categories, further building on November’s positive results, with some performing at better than pre-recession levels, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which tracks national retail and services sales.

“With many retail industry sectors recording strong growth in December, we are now seeing positive momentum that is more substantial than the short surge in spending we saw in first quarter 2010,” said Michael McNamara, VP, research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. “In December, some sectors performed at better than 2007 spending levels. Those include total apparel, automotive parts and services, e-commerce and grocery.”

Sectors that have lagged in performance compared with pre-recession levels include women’s apparel, electronics, furniture and furnishings, jewelry and luxury.

In terms of sector specifics, December 2010 had more positive than negative stories, owing to the generally strong holiday season:

Year-over-year total apparel sales in December saw the third consecutive monthly increase. At 10.9% this was the year’s most vigorous monthly year-over-year growth rate, and the highest posting since March 2007. All of apparel’s sub-sectors posted strong increases with the family and children’s categories helping to drive robust year-over-year growth within the sector. In 2010, total apparel has enjoyed nine out of 12 months of year-over-year gains.

The electronics and appliances sector posted a year-over-year increase of 1.2% in December, following two consecutive months of year-over-year declines. The consumer electronics sub-category was up 1.5% year-over-year for December, though overall dollar spending levels suffered due to some decline in pricing power on the larger ticket items such as TVs. The appliance sub-category declined by1.3%.

Continuing to gain share at a steady rate, the e-commerce channel grew 17.6% year over year in December, the highest year-over-year increase since December 2007. Much of the growth was driven by the online total apparel sub-category, which grew 28.2% year over year.

December is a key month for sales in the jewelry sector, and this month, jewelry sales posted a double digit growth rate year over year, increasing 10.4%.

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