The Blizzard Cripples Stores But Boosts Online Shopping to a Record

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Last weekend's East Coast blizzard caused many last-minute shoppers to stay home, pushing the final week of online holiday sales to a new record of $4.8 billion. That's an 11% increase over 2008, according to new data released by ComScore. The 2009 season -- Nov. 1 to Dec. 20 -- saw overall online sales of $25.5 billion, a 4% gain over last year. Tuesday, Dec. 15, set a single-day record, with $913 million in sales. When the blizzard hit on the final weekend before Christmas, online sales jumped 13%.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% "The major snowstorms hitting the Eastern Seaboard over the weekend appear to have given holiday e-commerce an additional boost, resulting in the heaviest online spending week on record at $4.8 billion," ComScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement.

Thanksgiving Day saw $318 million, a 10% annual increase. On Black Friday sales increased 11% to $595 million. Sales on "cyber Monday," the day after the Thanksgiving weekend, rose 5% to $887 million.

"Mother Nature Was Very Unkind"

But the snowstorm last weekend kept shoppers home, according to ShopperTrak numbers cited by Reuters. In-store retail sales on Saturday fell 12.6% versus last year, as traffic to U.S. retail outlets dipped 12.4%, the group said.

"Mother Nature was very unkind to retailers on Saturday as the year-over-year sales decline was the largest we've seen since we began reporting this number in 2002," ShopperTrak co-founder Bill Martin said in a statement.

Not surprisingly, the Northeast U.S. saw the sharpest drop in sales, with a 17.3% decrease in in-store sales over the weekend, ShopperTrak said.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow

But the ComScore data shows that even during -- or perhaps because of -- the recession, consumers continue to increase their online holiday shopping. Last weekend's storm seems to have provided the final boost for the online numbers.

"Consumers have clearly continued to spend online later into the season this year, with several very strong spending days in the most recent week including the heaviest online spending day in history -- Tuesday, Dec. 15, with $913 million," Fulgoni said. "Retailers have been very aggressive with late-season promotions while informing consumers that they could still get their purchases shipped in time for Christmas, and these tactics seem to be paying off."
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