U.S. holiday shoppers spent $29.1 billion between November and December of 2009, which represented a 4% increase in seasonal spending year-over-year, according to new research from comScore.
The '09 holiday shopping season featured distinct periods of strong spending growth surrounding the Thanksgiving-Black Friday time frame and the final shopping week leading up to Christmas, according to comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.
"The 2009 online holiday shopping season was a positive one as its growth rate slightly surpassed our forecast and returned to solidly positive rates after nearly a full year of marginally negative growth," said Fulgoni.
"Among the highlights of the season was the first $900 million online spending day and a strong late-season spending surge, propelled by effective retailer promotions, guaranteed shipping and a major snowstorm on the Eastern seaboard that convinced many to shop from the comfort of home."
According to Fulgoni, it's not impossible that this "better-than-expected end-of-year performance" represents a harbinger of renewed vigor and optimism for 2010.
Still, said Fulgoni, "we need to remember that consumers' spending power remains constrained by high unemployment levels, substantial debt and a new-found desire to save."
Tuesday, Dec. 15 ranked as the heaviest online spending day of the year -- and of all time -- at $913 million. It also represented one of nine individual spending days to surpass $800 million during the 2009 holiday season. The heavy spending on this day represented a surprise total on the heels of a somewhat lower-than-expected $854 million spent on "Green Monday," Dec. 14, 2009.
Thanks to aggressive retailer promotions, Cyber Monday -- Monday, Nov. 30 -- ranked as the second-heaviest spending day of the season, the highest it has ever ranked on this list, with $887 million in spending.
The third-heaviest spending day of the year was Tuesday, Dec. 1 with $886 million in spending, followed by Wednesday, Dec. 16 with $874 million, while Green Monday rounded out the top five.
Following a disastrous 2008 holiday season in which sales plummeted 29%, the jewelry and watches category rebounded strongly to rank as the top-performing online retail category for the 2009 holiday season. Overall, it grew a whopping 20% versus a year ago.
Consumer electronics, meanwhile, ranked second with 15% year-over-year sales growth, bolstered by strong sales of flat-panel TVs -- which experienced significant price cuts this year -- mobile devices and e-readers.
Other categories that performed strongly included event tickets -- up 8% -- computer hardware -- up 7% -- and books and magazines -- up 6%.