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MasterCard Advisors: Q4 sales momentum continues into January

NEW YORK -- January saw strong growth across most retail categories, continuing the positive performance from fourth quarter 2010, albeit at a slightly slower pace, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, a report on national retail and services sales that is based on aggregate sales activity in the MasterCard payments network and survey-based estimates for other payment forms, such as cash and check.

With the January closing of the retail year, sectors that were up for the year outnumbered those that were down by a ratio of three to one. However, even among those which were up for the year, about half have yet to reach their pre-recession peak levels of 2006 and 2007.

“A combination of rising consumer demand and strong pricing continued to drive retail sales in January,” said Michael McNamara, VP research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. “Although less robust, the trends we observed were similar to those recorded in the fourth quarter of 2010. Most sectors continued to post positive year-over-year results during the month despite consumers taking a pause in spending and repeated snow storms affecting the East Coast.”

In terms of sectors, January 2011 had notable strengths and weaknesses, according to MasterCard. Here are some specifics:

  • Posting their sixth consecutive month of positive year-over-year growth, total apparel sales continued to do well in January although at a slower growth rate than very robust fourth quarter 2010 rate. All sub-sectors of apparel posted solid year-over-year increases, the most notable of which came from the family (teen) and men’s categories, respectively increasing 12.8% and 8.1% year-over-year. 

  • The electronics and appliances sector posted a year-over-year decline of 3.8% in January following a modest year-over-year increase recorded in December. The consumer electronics sub-category declined by 3.3% and the appliance sub-category fell sharply by 6.4%, its fourth consecutive year-over-year monthly decline.

  • E-commerce continued to gain share at a very steady rate, posting double digit year-over-year increases for the third consecutive month, growing 12%.

  • The SpendingPulse Luxury Index, which measures sales at high-end restaurants, food stores, department stores and general apparel categories, posted a strong year-over-year growth of 6.1%, the second highest growth rate since May 2010.

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