Least-vaccinated states led in-store holiday sales

American shoppers flocked to brick-and-mortar stores this holiday season, with especially strong sales in several states where the rate of full vaccinations against the COVID-19 virus is less than 60%.

That's according to an analysis of Mastercard SpendingPulse holiday sales data provided exclusively to Reuters, which showed that Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia, all of which are less than 55% fully-vaccinated, were among the states with the highest sales growth between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 compared to last year - with in-store holiday sales rising by more than 10% in each of those three states.

Overall, in-store sales rose 8.1%, according to Mastercard.

The highly contagious Omicron variant began spreading rapidly about halfway through the U.S. holiday shopping period.

Retail consultancy firm Kantar said many consumers went out shopping because they already had low concerns about getting infected and saw little risk in doing so.

In-store sales growth was more moderate in parts of the East Coast, where vaccine rates are among the highest in the country. In New York, where about 72% of people are fully vaccinated, store sales grew between 5-6% during the holidays. New York has been especially hard-hit by Omicron.

But there were some highly vaccinated states where store sales also increased by more than 10%, including Minnesota and New Mexico.

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