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Report: $29.1B spent in online sales during holiday season

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Reston, Va. About $29.1 billion was spent online during the November and December 2009 holiday shopping season, marking a 4% increase versus the same period last year, according to comScore.

The season featured distinct periods of strong spending growth surrounding the Thanksgiving-Black Friday timeframe and the final shopping week leading up to Christmas.

“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,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.

Among the highlights of the season was the first $900 million online spending day and a strong late-season spending surge, propelled by effective retailer promotions, guaranteed shipping and a major snowstorm on the eastern seaboard that convinced many to shop from the comfort of home, Fulgoni said.

“It’s possible that this better-than-expected end-of-year performance is a harbinger of renewed vigor and optimism for 2010 as the consumer economy seeks to rebound from one of the worst years in memory,” he added. “At the same time, we need to remember that consumers’ spending power remains constrained by high unemployment levels, substantial debt and a new-found desire to save.”

Dec. 15 ranked as the heaviest online spending day of the year -- and of all time -- at $913 million, one of nine individual spending days to surpass $800 million during the 2009 holiday season. The heavy spending on this day represented a surprise total on the heels of a somewhat lower-than-expected $854 million spent on Dec. 14, 2009.

Meanwhile, Cyber Monday (Nov. 30), propelled by aggressive retailer promotions, ranked as the second heaviest spending day of the season, the highest it has ever ranked on this list, with $887 million in spending.

The third heaviest spending day of the year was Dec. 1 with $886 million in spending, followed by Dec. 16 with $874 million and Dec. 14 rounding out the top five with $854 million.

Jewelry and watches, following a disastrous 2008 holiday season in which sales plummeted 29%, rebounded strongly to rank as the top performing online retail category for the 2009 holiday season growing 20% versus year ago. Consumer electronics ranked second with 15% sales growth, bolstered by strong sales of flat-panel TVs (which experienced significant price cuts this year), mobile devices and e-readers. Other categories performing quite strongly included event tickets (up 8%), computer hardware (up 7%) and books & magazines (up 6%).

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