Holiday Spending Growth Slows to Three-Year Low in FY12 (MA) (V) (DFS)

December 26, 2012 8:39 AM EST
Though e-commerce retail sales showed strong growth this year, overall sales were just about flat.

According to data from MasterCard's (NYSE: MA) SpendingPulse unit, retail sales rose just 0.7 percent from last year for the eight weeks ended December 24th. That was the slowest growth since a 5.5 percent dip in 2008 sales.

Numbers include MasterCard sales and estimates for cash payments. Excluded are auto purchases, groceries, and gasoline.

Notably, SpendingPulse attributed a portion of the slowdown to Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Eastern U.S. in late October. Spending was trimmed as consumers refocused funds on repairing or replacing lost and damaged items.

SpendingPulse said e-commerce sales rose 8.4 percent to $48 billion. Research firm comScore (Nasdaq: SCOR) said e-commerce spending increased 16 percent from last year, slightly lower than the firm's original estimate calling for 17 percent growth.

One retail executive commented that consumers "weren't in the shopping mood" until the last few weeks. Names like Target (NYSE: TGT), Wal-mart (NYSE: WMT), Saks (NYSE: SKS), and others offered substantial discounts last week and into Monday on hopes of bringing more people into stores.

On watch today will be MasterCard, as well as peers like Visa (NYSE: S), Capital One (NYSE: COF), and Discover Financial (NYSE: DFS) for hints on shopping trends.

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