Holiday retail sales surge thanks to strong economy, online purchases

People carry retail shopping bags during Black Friday events on November 25, 2016 in New York City. The day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday, is typically the biggest shopping day of the year in the United States. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans buoyed by a strong economy pushed holiday sales growth to a six-year high.

Retail sales rose 5.1 percent between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 from a year ago, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracked spending online and in stores across all payment types, including those who paid by cash or check. Total sales topped $850 billion this year, Mastercard said.

“From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail,” said Steve Sadove, a senior adviser at Mastercard and the former CEO of the department store chain Saks.

Online sales continued to grow, up more than 19 percent from a year ago. Last week, Mastercard said online sales made up 13 percent of total retail sales.

Clothing sold well this year — up nearly 8 percent from last year, the biggest growth for apparel sales since 2010, Mastercard said. Home furniture sales rose 2.3 percent, while electronics and appliances slipped 0.7 percent.

Shoppers spent less at department stores, which Mastercard said was partly due to store closings. But shoppers did head to the websites of department stores, where sales rose 10.2 percent, Mastercard said. Traditional retailers have been updating their websites and smartphone apps, as well as making it easier for shoppers to buy online and then pick up their items in store.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.