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SpendingPulse: Key categories over holiday in slight 0.7% year-over-year gain

Purchase, N.Y. -- Spending in key categories experienced a slight year-over-year gain of 0.7% during the 2012 holiday period, with the season slowed down by a combination of factors, according to a SpendingPulse report released by MasterCard Advisors, the professional services arm of MasterCard. Sub-sectors measured in the SpendingPulse Holiday Index report are apparel, electronics, online, luxury, jewelry and furnishings. (SpendingPulse data estimates retail sales across all payment forms.)
 
Last year, during a similar period (Oct. 30 to Dec. 24), sales grew by 2% year-over-year.

“The Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and North Central regions of the country all lagged the national average growth, while the Southern and western regions of the country experienced more positive holiday shopping seasons. You really did have two kinds of results, depending on the region -- one had a relatively negative season, while the other was more in line with the lower end of expectations. And between the two, even with all the negative headwinds, the country managed to gain slightly over last year,” said Michale McNamara, global solutions leader, MasterCard SpendingPulse.

SpendingPulse noted that the season had a difficult start, coinciding with Hurricane Sandy. The first two weeks of November were negative as the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions experienced substantial declines in holiday related categories. There was a recovery in sales growth during the second two weeks of November as promotional activity both online and in brick-and-mortar stores helped stimulate growth. But it subsided in the first half of December with several areas returning to negative growth versus early December 2011.
 
“While in most years, there is a similar soft patch in the first half of December, this year’s “soft patch” was weaker than usual,” McNamara said.

Sales improved again for the final stretch run, but again, disruptive weather conditions may have limited overall sales growth.

“Outside of Hurricane Sandy’s impact zone, the holiday season was definitely positive and more in line with expectations,” McNamara said. “But given that the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions account for about 24% of total U.S. retail, if those regions go negative, they definitely have an impact on the overall numbers.