US holiday sales rose at its fastest pace in almost a decade, lifted by a strengthening economy and consumers spreading out their purchases over a longer season, says ShopperTrak. Holiday spending over November-and-December jumped 4.6% versus the same period of last year, beating ShopperTrak’s prediction of 3.8%, the best performance since 2005, before the last recession, when sales gained 5.2%.
Retailers are relying less on major sales events such as Black Friday and coaxing consumers into buying gifts more steadily over a two-month stretch. Shoppers also had more money to spend this season, owing to lower gas prices and an improving job market.
Another research firm, First Data, said retail sales rose 3.2% from November 1 to January 4, compared with a 0.5% gain in sales during the same period a year earlier. Sales gained 5.3% from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. In November 2014, sales jumped 2.2%, compared with a 1.3% decline a year earlier, while December sales were up 2.9%, compared with a 1% gain in 2013.
However, Black Friday had disappointed retailers in November, raising concerns that this holiday season wouldn’t meet initial targets. A survey backed by the National Retail Federation estimated that spending tumbled 11% on Black Friday.
According to ShopperTrak, the best single sales day of the season ended up being Super Saturday, which comes on the weekend before Christmas, Black Friday ranking close second. The research firm says that while Black Friday and Super Saturday still hold the top spots, consumers seem less attracted to the value-based pricing associated with the two days and are responding more to the sales and promotions available throughout the season.