By Richa Naidu
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Shares of U.S. department stores jumped on Tuesday as Mastercard Inc said shoppers spent over $800 billion during the season, more than ever before, boosted by growing consumer confidence, rising employment and early discounts.
Sarah Quinlan, head of market insights for Mastercard Advisors, disclosed the figure after the payments processor's analytics arm published its SpendingPulse retail report.
The report said holiday sales in stores and online between Nov 1 and Dec 24 rose 4.9 percent, the fastest year-on-year pace of increase since 2011. Mastercard, which tracks spending by combining sales activity in its payments network with estimates of cash and other payment forms, excluded automobile sales from its figures.
Most U.S. retail stocks have tumbled this year as they continued to lose sales to online stores, mainly Amazon.com Inc. Traditional players have also been hurt by heavy investments in technology and discounting, made to keep up with online and off-price competition.
Shares in J.C. Penney Co Inc rose 7.6 percent on Tuesday, while Kohl's Corp shares were up 5.8 percent, Macy's Inc rose 5.1 percent and Nordstrom Inc increased 2.8 percent.
SpendingPulse said the moderate sales increases seen in apparel and department stores were particularly impressive given this year's slew of store closures.
Online sales rose 18.1 percent during the holiday season, thanks to a late rally in sales, according to Mastercard.
"But that's probably only 11 or 12 percent of total retail sales ... the bulk of sales still is very much in stores," said Quinlan.
"There's growth, don't get me wrong, but we still love that experience of being in store."
The biggest winner of the holiday season was likely to be Amazon.com once again, however, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll conducted this month.
Amazon.com said on Tuesday that it had topped its worldwide holiday sales record this year, with more than 4 million people opting to trial Amazon Prime in one week during the period.
(Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Andrew Hay)