New figures released Monday show that holiday shoppers in the U.S. spent a little more compared to last year. Mastercard, which compiled the data, says retail sales rose 3.6 percent from November until Christmas day, up sharply from a 2.3 percent drop for the same time last year.
A winter storm that slammed the northeast of the United States the Saturday before Christmas may have delayed some shoppers. But the latest figures show shoppers made up for it before and after the storm.
Retail analyst Lori Wachs says discounts on big ticket items like electronics were among the big draws. "The prices have come down to a real sweet spot of around $750 dollars for a 50 inch TV which is down around 20 percent from last year," she said.
Consumer spending is one of the biggest drivers of economic growth. Many shoppers were out in force in New York on Thursday, the day before Christmas. Many were proscrastinators, like Tiffany Smith. "I left it all to the last minute and I'm so ashamed to say it but I did. I just didn't feel like it. I didn't, why? Because of the crowds and the people and the lines," she said.
Many merchants, stung by last year's disastrous showing, kept smaller inventories and did not have to slash prices to sell their products.
AOL consumer adviser Regina Lewis says don't expect a lot of after holiday bargains. "That's by design. Retailers want to get you in the door or on their sites. You will get the bargains, but you won't be able to resist the full price items," she said.
Big winners include online sales, up more than 15 percent this season.
But analysts say the full picture will not be known until major retailers report holiday sales numbers in January.