Online holiday shopping jumps 15% to $36.4 billion

/ Source: The Associated Press

Online spending rose 15 percent during the holidays, new data shows, as more Americans responded to online sales and free shipping offers and shifted more of their dollars online.

Total online sales between Oct. 31 and Thursday rose 15.4 percent to a record $36.4 billion, compared with $31.5 billion a year ago, according to figures released Thursday from MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse. Several categories, including clothing and electronics, gained share of overall category sales as well.

"Americans are really changing way that they shop and the way they spend," said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for SpendingPulse.

The holiday shopping season has been bustling this year, and e-commerce has been a big part of that. The National Retail Federation expects total holiday spending will rise 3.3 percent. Online sales generally account for 8 to 10 percent of the total. This increase this year could push it solidly into double digits.

Clothing sales rose 25.7 percent, with family, teen and children the strongest category, and double-digit gains in men's and women's clothing as well. Online spending now makes up 18.8 percent of clothing sales, compared with 16.9 percent last year and 9 percent in 2007.

Online spending on electronics — which makes up about 30 percent of total spending on electronics — rose 12.2 percent. Jewelry sales rose 4.5 percent.

The heaviest spending day was Nov. 30, with $1.17 billion in sales, although six days topped $1 billion in sales, up from 3 last year, according to the figures.

McNamara said results were helped by early promotions, which began well before Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that is traditionally the kickoff to the holiday shopping season, this year.

Meanwhile, Comscore Inc., another firm that tracks online spending, said Wednesday that online spending in November and December, through Dec. 19 rose 12 percent to $28.36 billion.