December 20, 2011, 9:56 AM

A hot holiday season

E-commerce spending has increased 15% this year, comScore says.

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Consumers so far this holiday season have spent $31.97 billion with online retailers, a 14.95% increase from the $27.81 billion spent at the same point last year, according to the latest estimate from comScore Inc. released today. The web measurement firm included e-commerce spending between Nov. 1 and Sunday, Dec. 18.

Online retail sales for the 2011 holiday season have hovered at around 15% over 2010 in the estimates comScore has released during the holiday season. Last week, online shoppers spent at least $1 billion on four days, including Friday, a marketing event called Free Shipping Day that had some 2,300 retailers offering free delivery of holiday gifts. For the 2011 holiday season, consumers have spent at least $1 billion with web merchants on 10 days, comScore says.

Online shoppers spent more than $6.28 billion last week, up 14.2% from the nearly $5.50 billion spent last year. Last weekend, the final full shopping weekend before Christmas, had $1.04 billion of e-commerce spending, comScore says.

 “With only a few more days until Christmas, the preponderance of Americans’ late-season holiday shopping will shift to bricks-and-mortar retail, although the procrastinators among us will still be able to take advantage of expedited shipping and buy online up to and including the day before Christmas Eve with the guarantee of having their gifts delivered in time for the holiday,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “In total, we will see another $5 billion or $6 billion in e-commerce spending over the remainder of December to finish off what has clearly been an outstanding season for online retailers.”

The gains for online retailing this holiday season outpace the growth for bricks-and-mortar stores, according to the latest estimate from the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index. For the week ending Dec. 17, retail sales increased by 4.6% over last year. For December, same-store sales will increase by 3.5% to 4.0%, the Index estimates.

"After a shopping lull over the first two weeks of December, consumers were out in force this past week trying to complete their holiday shopping," says Michael Niemira, ICSC vice president of research and chief economist.  "However, despite the latest week's pickup, consumers are still behind in their holiday-gift completion rate relative to last year, which means the final week before Christmas is likely to be very, very busy.”

That point is supported by research released today by payment card network Visa Inc., which says 77% of consumers have yet to finish their holiday shopping. Those consumers will spend an average of $278 more on holiday purchases, Visa says, basing its findings on a telephone survey of 1,000 consumers that was conducted between Dec. 16 and Dec. 18.


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