It's likely e-commerce got a boost from the major blizzard that hit the Eastern Seaboard on December 26, since hazardous travel conditions kept many shoppers away from brick-and-mortar stores.
Total (all channels) holiday sales increased in 2010 as well, but by a smaller percentage than online's: early reports chart a 5.5% increase over 2009 to $584 billion, a larger total than the pre-Great Recession year of 2007.
The figures from comScore indicate that e-commerce has become a shopping channel used throughout the holiday season, not just on special days such as Cyber Monday or as a last-minute alternative to in-person purchasing. In fact, e-commerce may be filling the gap on days when in-person shopping is impractical: online sales on Thanksgiving Day increased 28% this year, to $407 million.
Cyber Monday was still one of the most popular days for e-tail with $1.02 billion in sales, a 16% increase. The largest increase by percentage was on Free Shipping Day (December 17): its $942 million in online sales was 61% higher than on the comparable day in 2009.
The fastest-growing product categories online were computer hardware (up 23%); books and magazines (up 22%); consumer electronics (up 21%); computer software (up 20%); toys (up 16%); and jewelry and watches (up 11%).
"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 Gian Fulgoni, chairman of comScore. "After the past few years' struggles, it is gratifying to see e-commerce return to a state that can only be described as a very merry holiday shopping season."
For related content see: Holiday Sales Up 5.5% to $584 Billion, Surpassing 2007 Totals
Web Sales Set Records, Make Online Retailing the Best Christmas Ever