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CE Holiday Sales Flat: MasterCard

12/20/2010 12:35:13 PM Eastern

Purchase, N.Y. - CE
holiday sales appear stuck in neutral despite solid seasonal gains across other
retail sectors.

According to a
SpendingPulse report by MasterCard's Advisors consultancy division, CE sales
edged up just 0.4 percent year-over-year for the Oct. 31-Dec. 11 period,
dragged down by declines during the three weeks leading up to Black Friday.

The report is based on aggregate sales activity in the MasterCard payments network,
coupled with survey-based estimates for all other payment forms, including
other cards, cash and checks.

SpendingPulse VP Michael McNamara attributed CE's weakness to a
significant decline in TV pricing, which has impacted dollar volume. "While
this doesn't mean there aren't hot products in electronics, the overall sector"
- along with appliances and home furnishings - "is struggling a little year
over year," he said.

 In contrast, e-commerce
continues to be one of the stars of the season, with a seasonal growth rate of
13.5 percent and weekly double-digit year-over-year growth rates since the
second week in November. The channel's gains account for much of the overall increase
holiday sales, McNamara said.

Better-than-expected
retail performance across the board has similarly prompted market research firm
ShopperTrak to raise its holiday sales forecast from a 3.2 percent increase to
a gain of 4 percent, while seasonal traffic is up 1.8 percent year-over-year.

Strong
demand for holiday favorites like toys prompted Toys "R" Us chairman/CEO Jerry
Storch to declare the Saturday before Christmas "the biggest shopping day in
the history of retailing" to CBS News. He said the remainder of the week would also
remain "massive" as the chain moves to around-the-clock hours tomorrow through
Christmas Eve.

In
contrast, Best Buy, which lowered its full-year earnings outlook on weak
holiday traffic trends, took added measures over the weekend to boost December
sales. These included dropping its 15-percent restocking fee policy for most returns,
plus a slew of gift-card gaming offers that included a $100 card with the
purchases of a 160GB PlayStation 3.

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