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Snowstorm blankets Web with high shopping traffic

Traffic firm ComScore says that gains in holiday retail traffic last weekend were even higher than expected because of a blizzard that hit cities from Washington, D.C., to Boston.

This ticked-off cat isn't too thrilled about the snow, but plenty of online retailers are.
Caroline McCarthy/CNET

A blizzard that pelted much of the Eastern Seaboard with over a foot of snow also led to a spike in last-minute online holiday shopping last weekend, traffic firm ComScore said Tuesday.

Online shopping continues to eat up a bigger chunk of holiday retail each year, but this season, with roads snowbound and temperatures well below freezing in some of the most populous areas of the country at the tail end of the holiday season, it was even more than usual. (Several cities in the mid-Atlantic, like Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., pulled in more snow in a single snowfall than they typically do in an entire season.) For the weekend of December 19-20, U.S. traffic to non-travel retail sites was up 13 percent from the equivalent weekend last year--and on Tuesday, December 15, right when the storms started hitting weather forecasts, it was up 21 percent.

That Tuesday marked the biggest online spending day in history, ComScore says.

"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 chair Gian Fulgoni said in a release. "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, December 15, with $913 million. 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."

A survey from Coremetrics said that sales for "Cyber Monday," the Monday after Thanksgiving and typically a day for big online deals, showed healthy gains this year.