US Retail Sales | E-Commerce is the Big Winner in Back-to-School

PURCHASE, NY | The back-to-school shopping season is the second-biggest selling period of the year for U.S. retailers, behind the winter holidays. While this year has been without exception, the back-to-school bump was less than the retail industry expected.


SpendingPulse on US Retail Sales

According to the latest SpendingPulse™ report released today by MasterCard Advisors, total US retail sales for August saw a 3.9 percent year-over-year increase. However, e-Commerce remains a bright spot in retail sales. SpendingPulse shows that consumer spending continued to shift from bricks-and-mortar in August, particularly in some of the key back-to-school shopping categories, including Electronics, Department Stores and Total Apparel – all of which had double-digit increases. The only exception was Children’s Apparel, which declined 0.2 percent in online sales versus a 2.4 percent increase for in-store Children’s Apparel.


Children's Apparel Online: first year-over-year loss

“Last month, we talked about how softness in categories such as Children’s Apparel was an indication that this year’s back-to-school season would be rather subdued,” said Sarah Quinlan, Senior Vice President, Market Insights for MasterCard Advisors. “This month’s SpendingPulse report clearly reflects that consumers are still cutting back on spend where they can and seeking the best value. In many cases, consumers found the best deals on the web. Online family apparel, for example, posted its best numbers since April, fueled by attractive promotions. But in the case of children’s clothing e-tailers, which saw their first year-over-year loss since January 2012, consumers clearly chose to shop in-store, or not at all.”


'US Retail Sales actually looks more robust'

In a reversal from last month, the August SpendingPulse report also showed that gasoline sales slumped, which dragged down total retail sales by a full percentage point. “Without gasoline spending, retail sales actually look more robust,” said Quinlan. “With the summer driving season winding down, we will be watching to see how fluctuations in gas consumption impact the upcoming holiday season.”



About MasterCard SpendingPulse

A macro‐economic indicator, MasterCard SpendingPulse reports on national retail sales and is based on aggregate sales activity in the MasterCard payments network, coupled with estimates for all other payment forms, including cash and check. MasterCard SpendingPulse reports and content, including estimated forecasts of spending trends, do not in any way contain, reflect or relate to actual MasterCard operational or financial performance, or specific payment-card-issuer data. MasterCard Advisors produces monthly SpendingPulse reports that are available to subscribers in the US, UK, Canada and Brazil, and are delivered ahead of retail spending figures provided by other sources.


About MasterCard Advisors

MasterCard Advisors, the professional services arm of MasterCard, provides clients around the world with insights and solutions that drive business impact and ROI. The company uses advanced analytics and deep payments expertise to translate data into actionable behavioral insights and customized services. With analyses based on more than 80 billion anonymous transactions processed in 210 countries worldwide, the company leverages aggregated information and a consultative approach to help financial institutions, merchants, media companies, governments and other organizations grow their businesses. For more information, go to


About MasterCard

MasterCard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNews, join the discussion on the Cashless Pioneers Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.


Media Contact

Marisa Grimes, 914-249-2024,



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