January 5, 2011, 4:00 PM

E-commerce glows in final holiday wrap-up reports

ComScore says online holiday sales were 12% higher than last year’s.

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The final numbers are in, and they show that online retail enjoyed a strong holiday season.

E-commerce sales increased 17.6% in December, giving e-commerce its highest year-over-year gain since December 2007, MasterCard Advisors reported today. It builds upon the 12% growth MasterCard reported for November.

Meanwhile, comScore Inc. reported today its final e-retail sales number for the holiday season, which it defines as Nov. 1 to Dec. 31. The web measurement firm says consumers spent a holiday season record $32.6 billion online, up 12% from $29.1 billion a year ago. ComScore had predicted in late November 11% growth for the season.


 “The 2010 online holiday shopping season was a memorable one in which we saw spending rebound strongly from the recession of 2008 and 2009, and slightly exceed even our early expectations,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.

ComScore  extrapolates its data from the behavior of a panel of approximately 2 million online consumers who have granted comScore permission to monitor their online activity. The MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse report is based on retail sales using all payment forms, including credit and debit cards of all brands, cash and checks. It includes transaction information from at least 72,000 e-retailers.

MasterCard did not release today a dollar figure for holiday e-commerce sales, but last month estimated online spending from Oct. 31 to Dec. 23 would total $36.4 billion this year, up 15.5% from $31.5 billion a year ago. It also said online sales topped $1 billion on six days from Nov. 30 to Dec. 23; comScore says there was just one day that exceeded $1 billion, the Monday after Thanksgiving, often called Cyber Monday.

MasterCard Advisors, the consulting arm of the payment card network, attributes much of the December online sales growth to consumers snapping up apparel on the web. Online apparel sales grew 28.2% in December compared with December 2009. It says online sales in family and children’s clothing were even stronger, but did not disclose specific growth numbers for the subcategories. Total apparel sales, including those sold online and in retail stores, were up 10.9% in December. On a full-year 2010 basis, MasterCard says total apparel sales posted gains in nine of the 12 months.

The electronics category also posted double-digit growth online in December, up 14% from a year ago, MasterCard says. Jewelry sales were up 5.9% online, but were up 10.4% when offline sales are taken into account. The firm says sales by independent jewelers and high-end luxury brands drove the category’s growth, the first double-digit growth for total jewelry sales since June 2010.

MasterCard takes the strong overall performance as a sign that retail is regaining its footing. “With many retail industry sectors recording strong growth in December, we are now seeing positive momentum that is more substantial than the short surge in spending we saw in Q1 2010,” says Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. “This momentum was first detected during the back-to-school season, accelerating further in November, and in December, some sectors performed at better than 2007 spending levels.” 

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