Online shoppers help holiday spending; department stores lag

Markets Associated Press

Holiday spending got a boost in 2016, according to one analysis, as more people opted to shop by phone or computer — though department stores and clothing retailers still lagged.

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Overall consumer spending grew 4.7 percent over the previous holiday season, while online retail purchasing grew 12 percent over the same period last year, according to First Data, which analyzed online and in-store payments for nearly a million merchants between October 29, 2016 and January 2, 2017.

First Data said about 21 percent of all holiday spending was done online, up from about 15 percent last year.

"More and more, shoppers are opting to stay home to avoid the crowds and make purchases on their own time," said Rishi Chhabra, vice president for information and analytics at First Data.

Even with the growing number of online shoppers, spending at physical stores rose slightly and retail spending overall was up more than 3 percent.

But department store spending was down nearly 5 percent from the same period the previous year and women's retailers declined nearly 4 percent. Since New Year's, Macy's has said it would move forward with plans to close 68 retail stores and would cut more than 10,000 jobs. Sears Holdings Corp., has also said it would close another 150 stores, including 109 of its Kmart stores. And apparel retailer The Limited announced it was closing all its brick-and-mortar stores.

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The holiday season was brighter for sales of electronics and appliances, which grew more than 8 percent this year after seeing a more than 2 percent decline for the same period in the previous year.