MasterCard reports back-to-school uptick

By Reuters
Posted Oct. 6, 2010 at 6:19 a.m.

Caution remained the name of the game for U.S. consumers in September, but there was an upswing in spending on back-to-school supplies and less expensive electronics, according to a report by MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse.

Clothing, electronics and online retailers all saw sales gains in September, SpendingPulse said, supporting Wall Street’s view that they got a boost from late back-to-school shopping that pushed sales from August.

Investors will get a closer look at how top U.S. retailers fared when they report September sales on Wednesday and Thursday. Wall Street analysts expect a 2.1 percent increase in sales at stores open a year.

Despite the improvement, shopping trends showed consumers focused on essential items.

“Consumers are more willing to spend money on their children than on themselves,” Mike Berry, SpendingPulse’s director of industry research, told Reuters.

SpendingPulse findings reflect activity the group tracks in the MasterCard payments networks as well as estimates for other payment forms such as cash and checks.

Total clothing sales rose 3.8 percent last month, with gear for children and teens leading the pack while men’s and women’s clothing retailers saw declines.

Consumer electronics also got a boost, with spending rising 4.3 percent as prices for devices such as’s Kindle e-Reader and Barnes & Noble’s Nook have declined.

U.S. consumers did hold back on luxury spending, including expensive groceries and high-end restaurants. Spending fell 5.4 percent despite a strong stock-market rally that typically spurs luxury spending.

Online sales rose 7.8 percent in September, led by clothing and shoes.

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