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U.S. holiday retail sales set to break records

The U.S. holiday shopping season is on track to break sales records on the back of surging consumer confidence and increased use of mobile devices, presenting an unexpected boon for retailers and the delivery companies they rely on.

According to Mastercard analytics arm the holiday shopping season, a crucial period for retailers that can account for up to 40 percent of annual sales, brought record-breaking online and in-store spending this year of more than $800 billion.

Stakes are particularly high this year for traditional retailers that have invested heavily in technology and free delivery and returns, determined to stay relevant in a market increasingly dominated by Amazon.

Package delivery companies that handle returns for retailers have benefited from booming delivery volumes in recent years, but also have had to invest billions of dollars to upgrade and expand their networks to cope as e-commerce purchases surge to new heights.

Delivering individual packages to shoppers - and picking up returns - is a lower margin business for delivery companies, which make more when they deliver in bulk to businesses.

UPS has worked for years to increase its ability to forecast customer shipping demands to handle major package volume spikes ahead of the holidays. It has also raised shipping rates and added 2018 peak-season surcharges.

The returns delivered in 2017 are part of the 750 million packages UPS and is expected to deliver globally during the peak shipping season from the U.S.

Thanksgiving holiday through New Year's Eve. That is an increase of nearly 40 million over the previous year.