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Holiday e-commerce spending set to grow 15%

Based on the first three weeks of November, comScore is forecasting 15% growth in e-commerce spending for the 2011 holiday season.

U.S. consumers have so far spent $9.7 billion online during the first 20 days of the November-December holiday season, which is up 14% compared to the corresponding days last year. The heaviest online spending day of the season to date came on Nov. 16, when sales hit $688 million.

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Last year, U.S. consumers spent a total of $32.6 billion online during the holiday season (excluding auction sites and travel spending). This year's online holiday spending is expected to top $37.6 billion for a 15% gain, according to comScore's estimates.

"With the persistent backdrop of macroeconomic uncertainty and continued high unemployment, consumers appear to be increasingly favoring the online benefits of convenience and lower prices," said comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni, in a statement. "Due to the strength leading up to and during the holiday season-to-date, comScore's statistical models are forecasting that U.S. retail e-commerce spending will grow at a rate of 15% vs. last year."

Free shipping is a big draw for online shoppers, comScore finds. When asked about the importance of free shipping, 30% of consumers surveyed said they won't make a purchase without free shipping and another 46% said they actively seek out free shipping deals.

Meanwhile, more companies are taking steps to restrict online shopping while at work.

Among 1,400 CIOs polled by Robert Half Technology, 60% said their companies block access to online shopping sites, up from 48% last year. Of the remaining CIOs who don't block access, 23% said they allow access but monitor activity for excessive use, and 13% allow unrestricted access (4% don't know).

The CIOs whose firms allow online shopping said they expect employees to spend four hours per week, on average, surfing for deals this holiday season.

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her e-mail address is [email protected].

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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