Online spending up 13% to more than $30B

Faith Merino · December 30, 2010 · Short URL:

This holiday shopping season saw big numbers in online spending compared to the last several years

Online holiday spending reached record highs this year—thanks, in part, to the blizzard that stranded northeastern residents in their homes (and on tarmacs).  For the holiday season to date, a record high $30.81 billion was spent online, marking a 13% increase over 2009, according to a report from comScore late Wednesday.

For the week ending on December 26, some $2.45 billion was spent online, representing a full 17% increase over the same period last year.  

Of the whole holiday season (the first week of November to December 26), Thanksgiving Day and Free Shipping Day (December 17) saw the largest increases over last year.  $407 million was spent online on Thanksgiving Day, marking a 28% increase over Thanksgiving Day last year.  On Free Shipping Day, online spending reached $942 million—a 61% increase over the same day last year.

“For at least this holiday season, the American consumer has been able to shrug off the continuing economic challenges of high unemployment rates and depressed housing prices and spend at a rate that has been slightly stronger than we had expected,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni in a prepared statement.

Cyber Monday saw the heaviest online spending in a single day on record with more than $1 billion spent online.  The day also marked the first time online spending had ever breached the $1 billion mark.  While Black Friday saw some growth as well (9% over last year), it accounted for the least amount of growth among the other days measured, including December 13, or Green Monday (there’s a Green Monday?), which saw a 12% increase over the same day last year.

The week ending December 19 saw the most spending activity, as is typically the case, but with a more precipitous drop-off the following week than seen in recent years.

So which retail product categories saw the most growth this year?  Computer hardware—including mobile devices like tablet computers and e-readers—saw the steepest growth with a 23% increase over last year, followed by books and magazines (22%), consumer electronics (21%), and consumer software (20%).  While toys are a pretty standard holiday shopping staple, even that category saw an increase of 16% this year over 2009.

The spike in online spending this year is largely attributable to an increase in deals and discounts.  Data from one study revealed that Black Friday alone saw a 22% increase in deals this year compared to 2009, and visits to retailers’ websites increased 19% while page-views were up 26%. 

Some of that excess spending may also be due, in part, to Old Man Winter, who put the smack down on the northeast last weekend. Data from previous years suggests that inclement weather may boost online shopping when brick-and-mortar stores are unreachable.  Last year, online shopping saw a 13% increase during a blizzard that hit right before Christmas.

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