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E-Commerce Strength Boosted November Retail Sales

By Matt Grossman 

U.S. retail spending edged higher last month despite the continuing coronavirus pandemic as a surge in online shopping boosted sales, according to data from Mastercard Inc.

The data, which cover cash and check payments as well as credit cards, show that consumer spending rose 3.1% year over year in November, excluding car sales. Excluding gasoline as well, spending rose 5.1%, according to Mastercard.

Shoppers spent more on furniture, groceries and hardware in the month, with each of those categories rising by double-digit percentages. Apparel spending fell by 21%, and department-store sales declined by 15%.

As shopping continues to shift online during the public-health crisis, e-commerce spending rose by 53% compared with last November to make up 18% of the month's total retail sales, excluding cars. Big retailers with robust online sales platforms such as Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc. have experienced booms in digital shopping this year as people hoping to avoid crowds during the pandemic place orders from home.

Holiday shopping -- more of which took place before Black Friday this year -- drove a portion of the November spending growth, according to Mastercard. Because of the pandemic, many retailers launched seasonal promotions well before the holiday shopping season's traditional start on the Friday after Thanksgiving, to avoid attracting large crowds.

Customers also reacted last month to rising virus cases and the prospect of more government restrictions by stocking up on groceries and continuing to spend more on home goods, Mastercard said. Grocery sales rose 10% year over year in November, while spending on furniture and furnishings climbed 16%.

The same mind-set also drove more spending on electronics and appliances, for which sales rose 8.2% year over year in November. More cooking at home and more new residential construction this year have left buyers clamoring for products such as refrigerators and dishwashers, stretching appliance showrooms thin, said Chad Lyon, a Wells Fargo & Co. banker whose group finances appliance retailers' inventories.

"You've really seen retail demand spike," Mr. Lyon said. "The manufacturers have been playing some level of catch-up."

Soaring online sales also extended to fashion. Despite falling apparel sales overall, e-commerce spending on apparel rose 13% year over year in November.

Online jewelry sales jumped 46%.

In a sign that fashion companies are more focused on their internet presence during the pandemic, Swiss luxury-goods giant Compagnie Financière Richemont, which owns the Cartier jewelry brand, said last month it planned to invest $550 million in Farfetch, a French fashion website.

The deal will help Richemont improve its reach outside of traditional stores, Richemont Chairman Johann Rupert said.

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 03, 2020 07:16 ET (12:16 GMT)

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