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Analysis: Online holiday shopping grew almost 50%

Online retail sales during the holiday season exploded in 2020 according to preliminary analysis by spending tracker Mastercard SpendingPulse, as people staying home during the coronavirus pandemic turned to the Internet to purchase gifts for friends and family.

According to the report, online sales from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24 grew a whopping 47.2% over the same period in 2019, while total retail spending (excluding gas and automobile sales) expanded by 2.4%.

The total figure falls short of the National Retail Federation’s forecast of 3.6% to 5.2% rise in spending.

Spending on furniture, furnishings and home improvement products rose by double-digit amounts over 2019. Spending on luxury goods, department store purchases and apparel, which dominated last year’s holiday sales, fell by similar margins.

E-commerce accounted for nearly a fifth of all retail sales this year, Mastercard estimates, up from about 13% last year. Big-box retailers with established online operations that offer groceries, such as Target, Walmart and Amazon, saw booming sales as Americans stayed home.

In-person crowds on Black Friday, the biggest U.S. shopping day of the year, were smaller than past years in much of the country after some of the nation’s largest retailers announced they would not open their doors for the typical post-Thanksgiving sales. Cyber Monday, however, delivered a record-breaking $10.8 billion in sales, according to Adobe shopping data.

The coronavirus pandemic has battered the U.S. economy, with another 803,000 Americans filing their first unemployment claims this week.

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