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Department Stores Show New Signs of Life With Rare Sales Gain

  • Mastercard SpendingPulse reports sector’s first rise in a year
  • Apparel was the only U.S. retail category to drop last month
Shopping In NYC Ahead Of Retail Figures
Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

Sales at U.S. department stores just grew for the first time in more than a year after stimulus checks and holiday returns drove Americans back to the mall.

After a difficult 2020 that saw consumers eschew brick-and-mortar shopping in favor of delivery giants like Inc. and Walmart Inc., department-store sales rose 1.5% in January, marking the first positive month since December 2019, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. In fact, every retail sector -- besides apparel -- posted positive year-on-year gains in January, it said.