Snowstorm Helps Online Retailers Top Holiday Spending Record

Ecommerce sector poised to finish the year with a bang, as snowbound East Coasters add to an already-record-breaking holiday shopping season.

Thanks in part to a major snowstorm that kept many Americans on the East Coast homebound in the days following Christmas, Internet retailers posted another strong week of sales, vaulting this year's online holiday shopping season to a new record.

The steady spending that continued through the holiday week has lifted online sales since the beginning of November to $30.81 billion, a 13 percent increase over the same period last year, according to new figures from online metrics firm comScore.

"Online holiday spending has remained strong through Christmas, and we've already seen the season totals easily surpass the levels of the past few years to set a new record for spending at almost $31 billion," comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement.

Over the past week, U.S. shoppers spent $2.45 billion at ecommerce sites, a 17 percent increase over the same period last year.

For comScore, the impressive run-up to the holidays is a hopeful indicator that the ecommerce segment, if not the broader economy, is nursing itself back to health.

"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," Fulgoni said. "After the past few years' struggles, it is gratifying to see ecommerce return to a state that can only be described as a very merry holiday shopping season."

One of the highlights of this holiday season for online retailers came on the Monday after Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday. Historically, spending on Cyber Monday has been strong, but generally has been eclipsed by several individual days later in the season. This year, however, online retailers had their biggest day of the season on Cyber Monday, when shoppers spent $1.028 billion, an all-time single-day record and the first time any day has seen ecommerce sales top $1 billion.

By category, computer hardware posted the strongest year-over-year gains, with spending in the segment up 23 percent from 2009. comScore attributed much of that growth to the surging popularity of devices like Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad and Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) Kindle e-reader.

Online sales of books and magazines were up 22 percent, followed by consumer electronics and computer software, up 21 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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