Retail: Lookin’ good. Thank you luxury, stocks & iPad

As the northeast rebounded from a snowstorm that left one of it’s biggest cities (that’s NYC, folks – where we’re stationed!) crippled, retail sales over the holiday fared surprisingly well. Sure, there may not have been many on-foot shoppers these past few days, but numbers show that retail came out on top, despite worries otherwise.

According to this NYTimes article, Americans are splurging again. Thank goodness. Retail spending rose 5.5 percent in the 50 days before Christmas, exceeding expectations, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, a retail spending tracker. The data showed that apparel led the way in the uptick, with an increase of 11.2 percent. Jewelry was up 8.4 percent and luxury good sales rose 6.7 percent. The jury’s still out on how December will turn up overall, as many companies report on the month in January, and the blizzard surely hurt that essential after Christmas spike in store traffic.

The MasterCard data says the the pre-Xmas increase was the biggest in five years and spending reached about $584.3 billion, compared with $566.3 billion in that same period in 2007, an increase that beat the retail industry’s predictions: The National Retail Federation was expecting a 3.3 percent improvement and ShopperTrak predicted a 4 percent hike.

We can thank the luxury sector for much of this as stores like Tiffany & Co. continue to surge; and the stock market has been boosting consumer confidence too (though experts are debating whether consumer confidence is up or down).

We can also thank our great e-commerce world for a boost – e-retailers have helped surge retail figures ahead. And mobile commerce has helped too, with savvy retailers taking advantage of new devices like the iPad, a top seller this holiday.