Good tidings for retailers: Mastercard SpendingPulse anticipates U.S. holiday retail sales to grow 7.4%* in 2021

September 13, 2021 | Purchase, NY

Consumers and brands alike are gearing up for what’s anticipated to be the most wonderful holiday retail season on record. According to Mastercard SpendingPulse™, which measures overall retail sales across all payment types including cash and check, U.S. retail sales are anticipated to grow 7.4% excluding automotive and gas. Consumers are expected to spend online at even higher rates (+7.6%) than last year, while in-store sales are also expected to see a rebound—growing 6.6%** compared to 2020.

With early holiday shopping slated to begin in October again this year, retail sales for the “75 Days of Christmas,” are anticipated to grow 6.8% excluding automotive and gas, and e-commerce sales to grow by 7.5% compared to the same time period last year.



While this holiday season will continue to look different –due to geographical, economic, and household differences – there are a number of overarching trends to watch:

  • Early season’s greetings: With potential supply chain and labor supply issues impacting the season, retailers are expected to offer omnichannel promotions early on – particularly in the heavily gifted Electronics, Apparel and Department Store sectors. Technologies like contactless and buy online, pick up in store will continue to be embraced by consumers and retailers who desire a quick and seamless experience.
  • ‘Tis the season for splurging: Fueled in part by pent-up savings and government stimulus, consumers have the desire and the means to spend. Over the last six months, the Luxury retail and Jewelry sectors have been experiencing some of the strongest YOY and YO2Y growth; that is anticipated to continue through the holidays.
  • Shoppers return to stores, though shift to e-commerce is here to “sleigh”: Nothing says holiday cheer like busy malls and bustling Main Streets. While we anticipate that the return to in-store browsing and shopping will continue, e-commerce retail sales are not going anywhere. For the extended holiday season, e-commerce sales are expected to grow 7.5% YOY and 59.3% YO2Y - a record high for the channel.

“This holiday season will be defined by early shopping, bigger price tags and digital experiences. Over the past two years, retailers have learned a lot about what shoppers want and need, bringing us into an exciting new age of retail resilience,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Incorporated. “Retailers have been preparing for this moment and will find innovative ways to deliver on what’s bound to be the biggest holiday shopping season yet.”

Mastercard SpendingPulse: August Actuals - Sustaining Retail Momentum

The holiday season will be a fitting end to a year marked by strong retail performance. In August, for instance, U.S. retail sales excluding automotive and gasoline increased 8.1% year-over-year, and 7.7% compared to August 2019. Online sales in August grew 8.1% and 82% respectively, compared to the same periods. This momentum was particularly evident in key gifting categories, which have experienced strong year-over-year growth, including: Apparel (+75.2%), Electronics (+12.4%) and Department Stores (+28.7%). View the full August SpendingPulse figures here.


*excluding auto and gas sales

** 6.6% excludes auto and gas. When looking at in-store retail sales excluding auto, sales are expected to grow 8.9%

About Mastercard SpendingPulse

Mastercard SpendingPulse reports on national retail sales across all payment types in select markets around the world. The findings are based on aggregate sales activity in the Mastercard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for certain other payment forms, such as cash and check.

Mastercard SpendingPulse defines “U.S. retail sales” as sales at retailers and food services merchants of all sizes. Sales activity within the services sector (for example, travel services such as airlines and lodging) are not included. 

About Mastercard (NYSE: MA)

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.