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A Green Christmas

Strong consumer confidence and a robust job market fueled the U.S. retail sales rise at their best pace since 2011. Excluding automobiles, overall sales rose 4.9% (Nov 1 – Dec 24), compared with a 3.7% gain in the same period last year, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks all forms of payment. E-commerce grew 18.1%, outpacing in-store sales growth but still totaling less than 10% of sales annually.

Not coincidentally, retailer stocks have rebounded along with their sales. Stocks like Macy’s (up 24%) and Gap (up 18%) are up big just in the last month. Could it be that people will keep buying products in stores and not migrate entirely online?

Retailers have learned some valuable lessons over the past few years: manage inventories better; compete with on-line convenience and in-store pickup; and focus on what they do best, i.e., creating positive in-store experiences with products, pricing, promotions and expertise that satisfy their shoppers NOW.