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Holiday sales growth positive for retailers, lenders

Jan 07, 2014 Walt Wojciechowski

Holiday sales growth positive for retailers, lenders

The 2013 holiday season was always going to be a difficult one for consumers. Many financial experts predicted modest growth in sales from 2012, largely due to the more conservative spending habits and the fact that there were six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year compared to 2012.

Although retailers were at the mercy of the calendar, many industry leaders suggested that the festive period would show that American consumers are cutting back on spending, a byproduct of financial worry borne from the Great Recession.

However, data showed that this holiday season did indeed see sales growth. According to Reuters, MasterCard's Advisors' SpendingPulse report found that sales increased 2.3 percent from November 1 and December 24 compared to the same period a year ago. The rate of growth was particularly impressive, as sales spiked just 0.7 percent in 2012. The source noted that it marked the most significant spending jump in three years.

In fact, Reuters reported that high sales activity is expected to continue past Christmas, another positive sign for retailers.

The holiday rush was so significant this year that USA Today noted shipping giant UPS struggled to deliver packages on time due to high volume. According to the source, UPS predicated an 8 percent spike in traffic during the holidays. However, officials with the company indicated that the growth was much greater than anticipated, an example of how busy consumers were during the lucrative season.

It's hard to argue that this is a positive development for retailers across the United States. However, many in the short term lending industry and other credit extension sectors are wondering what it means for them.

Lenders question numbers

During the last year, Americans have adopted a more cautious approach to spending, which has actually been beneficial for lenders. More borrowers are living within their means, which has resulted in a reduced number of defaulted and late loan payments.

However, with the holiday period being particularly active, some lenders are wondering if Americans are returning to old habits or are simply on more stable financial footing. With little to suggest consumers are spreading themselves too thin, the signs suggest that borrowers are indeed in better shape financially than in years past.

During the next several months, credit and lending companies should pay close attention to the amount of loans that default. It could be an indication of which direction America's consumer base is headed in terms of fiscal responsibility.