There’s all kinds of things Millennials have been blamed on destroying, from the sale of diamonds to beer to home buying, but department stores got a reprieve. In fact, it was such a record year for holiday shopping that department store stocks have soared. That’s good news not only for retailers, but for the economy. The record sales suggest that flush employment and consumer confidence have Americans feeling good, even as they fret about how the tax bill might affect their pocketbooks further down the road.
According to MasterCard, shoppers spent $800 billion this holiday season, up 4.9%. That’s a count that combines online and brick and mortar sales, as well as credit card payments and estimates of cash transactions. Home goods and furniture were two sectors that saw some of the biggest gains. On Tuesday, J.C. Penney shares were up by 7.6 %, Kohl’s increased by 5.8%, Macy’s by 5.1%, and Nordstrom rose 2.8%.
Online sales jumped by 18.1% during the holiday season, and Amazon.com indicates it broke its own holiday sales record worldwide. Over 4 million people took advantage of Amazon Prime trials in one week alone of the holiday shopping season. “Overall, this year was a big win for retail,” Sarah Quinlan, Mastercard’s senior vice president of Market Insights, said in a statement to USA Today. “The strong U.S. economy was a contributing factor, but we also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase.”
This year, it was traditional retailers who tried something new. In a major comeback against online retailers like Amazon, department stores won the day. “But that’s probably only 11 or 12 percent of total retail sales,” said Quinlan of the 18.1% jump online retailers saw. She added, “The bulk of sales still is very much in stores.” Not bad, considering how many department stores have closed this year. “There’s growth, don’t get me wrong,” added Quinlan, “but we still love that experience of being in store.”