Online Retail Sales See Huge Declines This Holiday Season

December 30, 2008 0

San Francisco— This year’s holiday shopping season appears to be one of the worst in history. Despite retailers’ attempting to lure shoppers with deep discounts, failed to save the final week of holiday shopping was pretty much a bust, as sales dipped throughout most categories on decreasing consumer spending, according to a report from a division of MasterCard Inc.

The cause: A depressing economy combined with poor weather, according to MasterCard’s SpendingPulse 2008 Holiday Wrap-Up Report.

Online holiday sales declined 2.3% from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, according to the SpendingPulse report from MasterCard Advisors LLC, a subsidiary of payment card company MasterCard Worldwide, says: “It is probably one of the most difficult economic environment combined with unfavorable weather during the last week of shopping made 2008 one of the most challenging holiday shopping seasons in decades,” says Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for SpendingPulse.

Retailers’ sales dropped as much as 4 percent during the holiday season. Sales of appliances and electronics, women’s apparel and luxury items such as jewelry tumbled more than 20 percent.

The luxury category — jewelry in particular, once considered immune from economic turmoil, had the biggest year-over-year declines, with sales dropping 21.2%, compared with a jump of 7.5% a year ago, when the economy had just begun to sputter. Including jewelry sales, the luxury sector plunged by a whopping 34.5%.

However, retailers that deal in food products, such as grocery and general merchandise stores, including some restaurant sectors helped keep the overall retail sales decline in single digits, according to the report. But some key sectors suffered double-digit declines.

The SpendingPulse report is based on purchases carried out through MasterCard payment network and others in the company’s payments network, plus estimates for all other forms of payment, including cash and check.