December 25, 2012, 12:14 PM

‘An exceptionally strong week’

Online retail sales surged 53% in the five-day workweek ended Friday, comScore Inc. reports.

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Online retail sales in the last workweek before Christmas jumped a powerful 53% over the comparable week last year, fueled by a day of free shipping offers and later guaranteed delivery cut-off dates, comScore Inc. says. The strong final week pushed 2012 holiday season web sales 16% ahead of last year, comScore says. And a survey suggests many consumers will be shopping online Christmas Day.

ComScore, which tracks the actual web activity and purchasing of some 1 million U.S. online consumers, says consumers spent $3.686 billion online in the five days from Dec. 17-21, compared with $2.412 billion last year.

ComScore pointed to two big reasons for the dramatic growth. First, the Free Shipping Day promotion that more than 1,000 retailers participated in moved to Monday, Dec. 17, this year from Friday, Dec. 16, 2011. While the $1.01 billion in sales on Dec. 17 this year, was slightly less than the $1.07 billion consumers spent on Free Shipping Day last year, when 2,300 e-retailers participated in the 2011 promotion, the big spending burst moved into the final week. Second, comScore says, many retailers offered free shipping and guaranteed delivery by Christmas later into the season.

"Free Shipping Day kicked off the final week before Christmas on a strong note with $1.01 billion in spending," says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "It was the opening to an exceptionally strong week, which saw spending grow by 53 percent. We typically do not see such heavy spending this late in the season, but the fact that Free Shipping Day occurred on a Monday, combined with the fact that so many retailers extended their promotions into the middle of the week—with guaranteed shipping by Christmas—helped deliver an encouraging late-season surge. The result has been a significant uptick in the season-to-date growth rate, which now stands at 16 percent."

The final-week push moved holiday season online sales growth close to comScore’s original prediction of 17%; until last week, growth had been trending at about 13% over last year. Store sales growth has been significantly lower, as total retail sales increased 4.4% from Nov. 3 to Dec. 4, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade association.

A recent NRF survey suggests 8.2% of consumers plan to shop online today, Christmas Day, compared with 4.9% who said so in a survey in 2009. Asked about their plans for Christmas Day, 26.5% of those surveyed listed browsing the web, while 7.1% said going to a restaurant and 3.8% shopping in a store.

Many consumers will be using mobile devices to shop over the holidays, the survey shows. 61.8% of those who own tablets say they plan to use those devices to look for products, compare prices and buy over the next few days. That includes 30.3% that plan to purchase gifts and 16.8% who expect to use apps to compare prices. And 51.7% of smartphone owners say they will use their phones to research products, compare prices and make purchases over the coming week and a half.

The survey of 8,333 consumers was conducted Dec. 4-10 by BIGinsight, a market research firm.

With the holiday season winding down, comScore reported there were a record 12 days during the holiday season with online sales of more than $1 billion, surpassing last year’s 10 billion-dollar days. Here, according to comScore, are the 10 biggest online shopping days of the 2012 holiday season, with sales in billions:

Monday, Nov. 26 (Cyber Monday), $1.465

Tuesday, Dec. 4, 1.362

Monday, Dec. 10 (Green Monday), $1.275

Tuesday, Nov. 27, $1.263

Tuesday, Dec. 11, $1.220

Friday, Dec. 14, $1.219

Thursday, Dec. 13, $1.135

Monday, Dec. 3, $1.117

Wednesday, Nov. 28, $1.110

Wednesday, Dec. 5, $1.051

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