Hey Minnesotans, did you by chance notice more gifts -- or nicer ones -- under the Christmas tree this last year?
It would make sense if you did since Minnesota apparently showed the biggest gain of all states in holiday retail sales. That’s according to the number crunchers at First Data, a prominent payments technology firm that compiled the data from transactions at more than 400,000 retail merchant locations across the U.S. It included both online and brick-and-mortar sales in its data.
Not only that, but Minnesota blew everyone else away. Retail sales grew 12.9 percent in Minnesota between November 1 and January 4 compared to the same period a year ago, according to First Data. That compares to the national average of 3.2 percent. The next closest state was Oregon with 7.4 percent. The states at the bottom of the list included the likes of Mississippi, Massachusetts and Nebraska with less than 1 percent growth.
So how do you explain Minnesota's eye-popping growth?
I asked the folks at First Data what could account for such a big increase. They pointed to the state’s low unemployment rate (3.7 percent in November compared to 5.8 percent nationwide) as a likely factor. Also, they noted that Minnesota had a much warmer December than the previous year, which could have put shoppers more in the buying mood.
But the data was also met with some skepticism. Dave Brennan, co-director of the University of St. Thomas Institute for Retailing Excellence, wondered if the data included sales from certain types of stores not typically used in retail sales numbers or if there might be some other factors throwing off the results.
After all, shoppers in the Twin Cities were expected to spend just 3.7 percent more during the holiday season compared to 2013, according to the University of St. Thomas’ annual survey.