Omaha looks to have joined the national retail party, ringing in strong holiday sales

December 28, 2018

Early indications are that 2018 was a banner year for Christmas sales in Omaha as well as nationally.

“It was a great year,” said Jim Sadler, the senior general manager at Westroads Mall.

Just how good?

“I was out speaking with some retailers this morning and asking them when they were going to get some time off,” Sadler said Thursday. “They were in a great mood, saying they were up for the year.”

Nationally, data compiled by Mastercard underlined that optimism, showing that sales during the holidays rang up to their highest amount in six years.

The data looks at spending of all types, including credit cards, cash and checks. Spending increased by 5.1 percent from last year, to $850 billion, in the period from Nov. 1 to Christmas, according to the Mastercard data.

Online, the jump was even stronger, with sales there growing 19 percent from last year. Online retailing behemoth Amazon.com reported that it had a record-breaking season, but it didn’t provide sales numbers.

In Omaha, the numbers aren’t in yet, but anecdotally it appeared that low unemployment, high consumer confidence and an unusual four shopping Saturdays in December before Christmas helped retailers.

A recent stock market dip and partial federal government shutdown didn’t seem to hurt.

“We had overall a really good season ... in-store and online,” said Jackie Chavez, Nebraska Furniture Mart marketing supervisor.

She attributed that to an expansion of the Furniture Mart’s toy department and a redesign of the retailer’s website.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t just purchases for under the tree that led to foot traffic in local stores: The Furniture Mart and Westroads were busy Wednesday, the day after Christmas, representatives said, presumably in part because people were exchanging or returning gifts.

“But not as busy as that Saturday before Christmas,” Sadler said.

What sold best? The Mastercard Spending Pulse analysis found that apparel was one of the leaders of the season, growing nearly 8 percent, the best mark since 2010. Sales of clothing have been accelerating since a strong back-to-school season.

While local holiday sales numbers won’t be available until January, Sadler said the retailers he spoke with Thursday were “very happy and optimistic.”

This report includes material from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Update hourly