2012 Holiday Spending Hits Record $42.3B

Online holiday spending was up 14% this year, according to comScore, falling short of the research company's original growth projections. Despite waning consumer confidence in December, the season managed to produce 12 individual $1 billion spending days, surpassing 2011's 10 billion-dollar days.

Online retail spending for the 2012 holiday season hit a record $42.3 billion, a 14% increase from 2011, according to data released Thursday by comScore.

Despite several strong growth days late in the season, including Dec. 17’s Free Shipping Day (up 76% to $1.013 billion) and Christmas Day (up 36% to $288 million), and 12 individual $1 billion spending days — topped by Cyber Monday, Nov. 26, at $1.465 billion, and Dec. 4, at $1.362 billion — the holiday season fell short of comScore’s original projections.

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“The 2012 online holiday season was once again a very strong season with growth rates in the mid-teens as we reached record-setting spending levels,” Gian Fulgoni, comScore’s chairman, said in a statement. “This year’s growth rate is essentially on a par with last year’s. But 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% as we fell a billion dollars short of our expected total of $43.4 billion.”

Though the season started off strong, consumer confidence waned in December with Congress at a standstill over the fiscal cliff crisis, the research company said.

“While November started out at a very healthy 16% 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,” Fulgoni said. “With Congress deadlocked throughout December, growth rates softened even further and never quite made up enough ground to reach our original expectation.”

Still, the season recorded online retail’s first ever $7 billion week (the week ending Dec. 16), and saw 53% growth for the week ending Dec. 23. Excluding the week before Christmas, growth was 12% and below for December, including only 1% growth for the final week of the year.

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ComScore attributed the difference in growth in the final two weeks of the year to the way the calendar fell in relation to Christmas.

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