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US Christmas sales rise despite inflation

A person shopping in New York City on Dec. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
A person shopping in New York City on Dec. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

NEW YORK (AP) — Holiday sales in the United States are up this year, a sign that consumer spending remains strong despite rising prices in everything from food to rent, according to one indicator.

Christmas sales rose 7.6% compared to 8.5% last year, when people began spending what they saved during the first part of the pandemic, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks all types of purchases, including with cash and credit cards.

Mastercard SpendingPulse anticipated a 7.1% increase. The figures released Monday exclude the auto industry and are not adjusted for inflation, which has dipped a bit but remains high.

Sales in the United States between November 1 and December 24, a critical period for retail stores, were boosted by clothing and restaurant spending.

By category, clothing purchases were up 4.4%, while jewelry and electronics were down 5%. Online sales increased by 10.6% compared to the previous year and in-person sales increased by 6.8%. Department stores posted a modest 1% increase over 2021.

“This sales season looked a bit different than years past,” Steve Sadove, former Saks chairman and CEO and Mastercard adviser, said in a statement. “Retail chains cut their prices sharply, but consumers diversified their seasonal spending to accommodate higher prices and reflecting a greater appetite for post-pandemic holiday experiences and gatherings.”

Part of the increase reflects higher prices across all items.

Consumer spending makes up nearly 70% of economic activity in the United States, and Americans have remained resilient since inflation peaked nearly 18 months ago.

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