The 2017 holiday season was a happy one for retailers! Mastercard SpendingPulse reported that holiday sales increased by a record 4.9% this year, making it the largest year-over-year increase since 2011. The successful season even exceeded the National Retail Federation’s initial forecast, who predicted November and December sales growth to be between 3.6-4%, compared to the same time last year.

Here’s what we’ve learned about the holiday season so far:

Shoppers were certainly feeling the Christmas cheer on Super Saturday – the final Saturday before the Christmas holiday. According to data from Shoppertrak, in-store retail traffic on Super Saturday increased 20% this season when compared to 2016. It was also one of the highest sales days of the season in terms of single-day spending, second only to Black Friday. Even traffic on Saturday, December 16th and Sunday, December 17th saw a 2.8% increase compared to 2016’s Super Saturday weekend.

The list of retailers reporting a strong holiday season continues to grow, with brands including American Eagle, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, and Target. Compared to 2016, same-store sales in November and December increased by 8% for American Eagle, nearly 7% for Kohl’s, 3.4% for Target, and 1.2% for Nordstrom.

While a strong economy cannot be discounted as a contributing growth factor, Mastercard Senior Vice President of Market Insight, Sarah Quinlan, stated that it was the retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers who were the biggest beneficiaries of the period. Quinlan shared, “Retailers did a better job, in my opinion, since they know 82% of people are using an online device while shopping — and even when you have them in your store, they are searching all the time. I think retailers this year made a better effort reaching out and using that channel to their advantage. This was the first year I think omnichannel had a meaning.”

Retailers are recognizing the necessity of adapting to the new retail environment to meet the demands of today’s modern shopper. These shoppers are knowledgeable and tech-savvy, and they expect their in-store shopping experience to integrate seamlessly with their online activity.

For retailers, the biggest takeaway of the season is this; consumers want to shop whenever and however they want, with ease and convenience. They aren’t just looking for a good or service; they’re looking for an experience and a seamless one at that. If retailers can meet this expectation, consumers are more likely to open their wallets.

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