US online holiday spending jumps 14%, but below expectations – comScore

A total of $42.3 billion was spent online during the entire November-December holiday shopping season, a 14-percent increase from 2011, digital measurement company comScore said.

Days that stood out included Free Shipping Day on Monday, Dec. 17, when spending was up 76 percent to $1.013 billion, and Christmas Day, which saw online spending jump 36 percent to 288 million.

However, the jump was below the 16-percent-plus figure comScore had expected for the season.

“Despite many positives for the online sector, this year’s season did not quite perform up to our initial expectation for growth rates in excess of 16 percent as we fell a billion dollars short of our expected total of $43.4 billion,” the agency said.

While November started out at a very healthy 16-percent growth rate through the promotional period of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers almost immediately pulled back on spending, apparently due to concerns over the looming fiscal cliff and what that might mean for their household budgets in 2013, it said.

“With Congress deadlocked throughout December, growth rates softened even further and never quite made up enough ground to reach our original expectation,” comScore said.

Growth, however, was similar to that of last year’s.

Following four weeks of growth in the mid-to-high teens, each of the next three weeks failed to surpass a 12 percent growth rate despite their record-setting spending totals (including the first ever $7 billion week for the week ending Dec. 16).

“While it is typical to see growth rates subside slightly during the week after Thanksgiving, the amplified and sustained lull this year came as something of a surprise,” comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said.

“You might say that had it not been for Congress, every other indicator suggested it would have been an even merrier Christmas for online retailers. While growth in the mid-teens for the season is still very encouraging – and certainly many times better than brick-and-mortar – it was perhaps a slightly disappointing result given the initial expectations,” he added.

The top ten heaviest days for online spending in 2012 all occurred during the holiday shopping period. The season was once again led by Cyber Monday (Nov. 26) with a record $1.465 billion in spending, followed by Tuesday, Dec. 4 with $1.362 billion and Green Monday (Dec. 10) with $1.275 billion. The 2012 holiday season saw 12 days with more than $1 billion spending, comfortably surpassing last year’s total of 10 individual days.