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comScore Sees Holiday E-Commerce Uptick

After a healthy start, this holiday season is projected to see a slight increase in online spending, according to Internet metrics firm comScore.

Over the first 22 days of November, U.S. consumers spent $8.21 billion online, a 2 percent increase over last year.

That strong early showing was enough to give comScore confidence to project that the holiday season will cap out with a 3 percent jump in spending over last year, for a total of $28.3 billion.

"The beginning of the online holiday shopping season has gotten off to a positive start, which is a nice improvement over the slightly negative growth rates we've experienced through much of 2009," comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement.

Fulgoni was quick to caution, however, that the sustained economic downturn is still likely to sap holiday spending this year.

"Nonetheless, online spending this holiday season will likely be tempered by the stark reality of 10-percent unemployment and less disposable income in many consumers' wallets," he said.

If comScore's projection plays out, it would essentially bring the holiday e-commerce growth chart back to a flat line. Last year, the firm reported that the season closed with online spending down 3 percent from the previous year, a stark reversal of several years of roughly 20 percent sequential growth.

The new analysis echoes a recent forecast from data firm Nielsen, which found in a survey that fewer consumers plan to shop online this year, and those that do say they will spend less than they did last year.

However, the research group Forrester recently issued a contrasting and more optimistic analysis, projecting that online retailers would enjoy an 8 percent increase in spending this holiday season.

But by any projection, this year's holiday season will enjoy a friendly year-over-year comparison, give that the economic collapse began in earnest last October, with consumer confidence and spending sapped accordingly.

"We need to realize that this year's expected growth rate reflects the rapid deceleration in online consumer spending that occurred during the last two months of 2008, making comparisons to the year ago time period more favorable for the current holiday season," he said.