A recent SpendingPulse report by MasterCard Advisors revealed that retail sales, excluding automobile sales, increased by 2.4 percent year-over-year in December, with slow gasoline spending and holiday-related sales contributing to the month’s slow growth.
If auto sales and gasoline sales were excluded from the figure, retail spending grew at a slightly higher rate of 2.8 percent year-over-year, a decrease from a 4.5 percent retail sales growth in November.
“Throughout the year, we had been seeing a sustained, albeit gentle strength to the monthly numbers,” Kamalesh Rao, the director of economic research for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, said. “This continued into the fourth quarter, which had a strong start, peaking by the third week of October. Then from that time until the end of the year, we saw frequent swings between acceleration and deceleration.”
Retail sales increased by 2.5 percent during the holiday season thanks to a surge in late shopping trips just before Christmas. Many stores lowered prices at the end of December in order to lure shoppers, which contributed to an 18 percent retail sales increase at the end of the month compared to 2011, Reuters reports.
Despite gas prices below 2011 levels for the first time since August, demand for gasoline in 2012 fell 3.6 percent from one year earlier, according to 4-Traders.