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US online holiday season sales rise 14% from 2011

SALES BOOST:Despite fears that the US’ looming financial worries would derail seasonal spending, online sales recovered well from an earlier slowdown

AFP, SAN FRANCISCO

Industry research firm comScore Inc on Thursday reported that US shoppers spent a total of US$42.3 billion online during the year-end holiday season — a 14 percent jump from the same period in 2011.

“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,” comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said.

US e-commerce started out “at a very healthy” rate in November, but consumers quickly eased back on spending, apparently due to concerns that Congress would fail to make a budget deal averting the “fiscal cliff.”

“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,” Fulgoni said.

A “December swoon” in online shopping coincided with a drop in consumer confidence attributed in large part to worries that unresolved budget matters would trigger automatic tax increases and spending cuts at the year’s end.

US President Barack Obama late on Wednesday signed a “fiscal cliff” deal into law, averting a financial crisis with global repercussions.

However, the IMF, rating agencies and analysts warned that the critical problem of deficits and debt are still hanging over the US economy.

Financial markets turned cool toward the last-minute agreement on Thursday, in contrast to the initial surge in stock markets which had greeted the deal on Wednesday.

The agreement averted across-the-board tax hikes and temporarily suspended automatic spending cuts which some had feared could have tipped the US economy back into recession.

While Democrat and Republican lawmakers passed a compromise, they only delayed the imposition of spending cuts for two months, meaning another debilitating stand-off is almost certain at the end of February.

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