SALT LAKE CITY — While many local retailers are still crunching the numbers, a report issued Wednesday shows U.S. holiday shoppers reached a little deeper into their wallets and purses in 2018, dropping some $850 billion over the season — a rise of more than 5 percent over 2017.
According to the MasterCard SpendingPlus report, the biggest growth spurt in six years provided reasons for both brick-and-mortar and online retailers to ho-ho-ho.
“From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail,” said Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Inc. “By combining the right inventory with the right mix of online versus in-store, many retailers were able to give consumers what they wanted via the right shopping channels.”
While various reports early in the shopping season showed retail traffic to physical store locations down by anywhere from 1 percent to 5 percent, online sales continue to rise dramatically and were up over 19 percent from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24. According to data from Adobe Analytics, shoppers spent nearly $8 billion on Cyber Monday alone (in addition to $6 billion-plus they shelled out online on Black Friday) for a nearly 20 percent jump over last year.
Apparel and home improvement products saw some of the biggest gains for attracting holiday spending, moving up by 7.9 percent and 9 percent, respectively, according to the MasterCard report. And while in-person department store sales were down just over 1 percent, those brick-and-mortar retailers saw a big annual jump in their online sales volumes — over 10 percent — for the season.
Locally, many retailers have yet to assess their holiday performances, but Linda Wardell, general manager of downtown Salt Lake's City Creek Center, said she's had positive feedback from tenants.
"Based on what our retailers have been telling us, it was a very good season," Wardell said. "We likely won't see the final data for a couple of weeks."
Wardell noted City Creek, which opened in 2012, has earned a reputation as a regional shopping destination and draws from a customer base with a sprawling geographic footprint.
"We're drawing shoppers from within a 250-mile radius," Wardell said. "Salt Lake City really is the downtown destination for a lot of folks that live in Idaho, Nevada and even western Colorado."
And while The Gateway has been transforming itself — including a $100 million revitalization investment — from a retail-dedicated shopping complex into a hybrid retail, tech-hub and entertainment/event location, marketing director Jacklyn Briggs said they continue to add new retail tenants and those she's heard from say they had a great holiday season.
"Because of our heavy mix of entertainment options, we see people come to the center looking for something to get out and do with their friends and family in addition to their holiday shopping," Briggs said. "While not all merchants have reported their sales yet, those that have are reporting an increase over last year’s."
Salt Lake Chamber CEO Derek Miller said his organization has had positive feedback on holiday sales volumes from its members, which include retailers with only physical stores as well as e-commerce specialists.
"Over the past few weeks we have heard numerous accounts, from brick-and-mortars to international e-commerce companies, confirming our community's continued economic prosperity," Miller said. "We believe Salt Lake City is a positive reflection of the larger, national trend of strong retail sales this past holiday season."
Online mega-retailer Amazon, which opened anew distribution center in Salt Lake City this year, also shared some positive holiday data on Wednesday, reflecting continued growth for the company that controls about half of all U.S. e-commerce.
Amazon reported a record-breaking season, selling "millions" of its own Fire TVs, Fire Tablets and Kindles with home assistants like Echo Dot, Alexa Voice Remote and Echo topping the list of best-selling Amazon-labeled products.
Amazon also hit a benchmark for packages delivered to its subscription-based Prime customers, according to a statement from Jeff Wilke, who runs the company's worldwide consumer division.2 comments on this story
"This season was our best yet, and we look forward to continuing to bring our customers what they want, in ways most convenient for them in 2019," Wilke said. "We are thrilled that in the U.S. alone, more than 1 billion items shipped for free this holiday with Prime."
While data is still pending, the National Retail Federation estimates the average U.S. shopper spent about $500 on gifts for family, $75 on gifts for friends and $31 on "other gifts" over the 2018 holiday shopping season.