So, the holidays are behind us, and we have rushed in 2011 with a bang. There is still some business to attend to in 2010: The holiday spending numbers. On the surface it appears the economy is coming back just a bit, or people are just tired of not spending some money during the holidays. Whatever the case, it’s time to take a look at the numbers and see if retailers will be happy or sad. Keep in mind these are strictly online sales numbers and we will know more about brick and mortar in the coming days.

credit-card-debt1-300x300According to data released last week, online sales increased more than fifteen percent this holiday season. Retailers grossed approximately $36.4 billion from Oct. 31st to Dec. 23rd, which compares to $31.5 billion in the same time period one year ago. This data was release by MasterCard Advisors Spending Pulse, which tracks all forms of payments for purchases, including cash and checks.

It’s no surprise to me that online spending has grown exponentially. In fact, I did most of my shopping online this year and would say it equated to about eighty percent of my holiday spending. Those of us that do most of our shopping via the Internet are in the minority, as online sales still represents a small percentage of total sales. To put this in perspective, the National Retail Federation states that it expected brick and mortar sales to increase 3.3 percent, up from 2.3 percent a year ago, representing $451.4 billion.

The categories that led the way in increased sales may surprise you as they did me.  Online apparel purchases accounted for 18.9 percent of the total clothing sales, followed by electronics with a 12.2 percent increase, while jewelry increased by a modest 4.5 percent. With clothing being the hardest items to actually purchase online due to sizing variations, this totally shocked me, but I guess it really shouldn’t.

Another indication that the economy is starting to turn for the better is that this year, six days surpassed $1 billion in sales, while last year only three days exceeded tis threshold. We could spit numbers out from these reports until we are blue in the face but the fact remains the U.S. spent more this year than it did last holiday season online, and I expect the overall numbers to show a similar trend.

Did you spend more this year on the holidays than you did last year? What percentage of your shopping was done online as compared to in a physical store?