Holiday sales up 3.5% by one count

Retail sales in holiday-related categories such as apparel, electronics and jewelry rose a “decent” 2.3 percent according to a report Thursday from MasterCard SpendingPulse.

The so-so upswing from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 improved on the comparable period in 2012 and was in line with expectations, researchers said.

Overall sales from all categories rose 3.5 percent.

The growth remained modest due to six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and stormy weather during the final two weekends of the season – normally key consumption time for last-minute shoppers.

The jewelry sector was, by MasterCard’s calculations, the top-performing holiday category and one of the few that improved on its performance from 2012.

Spending was boosted by e-commerce, according to Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president of market insights for MasterCard Advisors.

“One clear bright spot is that many consumers who were stuck indoors turned to online shopping to check items off their list,” Quinlan said in a statement.

On Christmas Day alone, online sales surged 16.5 percent year over year, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.

Visits from mobile devices made up a record 48 percent of all online traffic – up 28.3percent from last year. Tablet users spent $98.61 per order on average while smartphone users shelled out $85.11.

E-commerce giant Amazon.com said it had its best holiday season ever. On Cyber Monday alone, 36.8 million items were ordered worldwide from the site, amounting to 426 items per second, according to the company.

Amazon said that more than a million customers became members of its Prime service in the third week of the month – a new high.

Popular products included tablets such as the Kindle Fire HD, televisions such as the Samsung 32 and laptops such as the ASUS Transformer Book.

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