December 23, 2010, 3:38 PM

Online holiday sales total $36.4 billion, up 15.5% from last year, MasterCard SpendingPulse says

MasterCard says there were six days this holiday season when online sales topped $1 billion.

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Online spending from Oct. 31 to Dec. 23 totaled $36.4 billion this year, up 15.5% from $31.5 billion a year ago, according to an estimate released today by MasterCard Advisors, the consulting arm of MasterCard.

“We saw good growth rates and double-digit growth rates across most areas this season,” says Michael Berry, vice president of MasterCard SpendingPulse, an index that tracks retail sales using all payment forms, including credit and debit cards of all brands, cash and checks.

Berry says the apparel category saw the strongest year-over-year growth, 25.7%, and accounted for almost 19% of all online sales this year. “Part of that is natural growth, but apparel is seeing some of the strongest growth rates online and offline as well,” he says.

The SpendingPulse index also reports department store online sales were up 11% over last year and electronics were up 12.2%. The weakest growth category for online sales was in jewelry, with growth of 4.5%.

Berry says there were six days this holiday season when online sales topped $1 billion. The top three days were Tuesday, Nov. 30; Wednesday, Dec. 1; and Wednesday, Dec. 15. MasterCard SpendingPulse says sales the Monday after Thanksgiving fell just shy of the $1 billion mark, totaling $999.3 million.

MasterCard’s estimates are somewhat higher than those of comScore, which puts year-over-year e-commerce growth at 12% this holiday season, and says consumers spent $28.36 billion online from Nov. 1 through Dec. 19.

The two organizations derive their estimates in different ways. MasterCard Advisors draws on actual data from the MasterCard network and survey data from other sources. ComScore tracks actual online spending of some 2 million consumers who have agreed to be tracked and extrapolates from that data.


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