Online Holiday Spending Rebounds, Up 4%

Online retailers turned in a solid performance to end the year, with spending during the holiday season up 4 percent from last year, according to a report released today by online metrics firm comScore.

In November and December, U.S. shoppers spent $29.1 billion online, a modest but hopeful uptick from last year’s mark of $28 billion.

“The 2009 online holiday shopping season was a positive one as its growth rate slightly surpassed our forecast and returned to solidly positive rates after nearly a full year of marginally negative growth,” comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement.

This season also set a new record for the highest single-day sales total, with customers opening their wallets to the tune of $913 million on Tuesday, Dec. 15, which comScore dubbed “Green Tuesday,” noting it was the first time a day had crossed the $900 million mark.

All told, nine individual days posted sales in excess of $800 million, with the Monday after Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday, taking the No. 2 spot with $887 in spending.

The strong spending figures follow a decidedly weaker 2008 holiday season, when online spending posted its first sequential decline by comScore’s measure.

By category, jewelry and watches and consumer electronics lead the pack, each posting double-digit growth over last year.

The category of jewelry and watches was especially hard hit last holiday season, when sales plunged 29 percent. This year saw a significant rebound, with sales up 20 percent.

Buoyed by strong sales of mobile devices, e-readers and heavily discounted flat-panel TVs, the consumer-electronics segment saw online sales jump 15 percent over last year.

Sales of computer hardware increased 7 percent.

The strong end to the year edged out comScore’s prediction of 3 percent growth for online holiday spending.

The secret behind the ecommerce sales jump

comScore credited Internet retailers with effective promotions this year, particularly free shipping and guaranteed in-time delivery, and noted that a major December snowstorm in the East Coast helped redirect brick-and-mortar shoppers to the Web.

Fulgoni held out hope that the modest improvement in the holiday shopping numbers could be a “harbinger of renewed vigor and optimism for 2010,” but cautioned that spending will remain slack as long as unemployment remains high and consumer debt continues to weigh on household budgets.

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