Apple's iPad is helping drive consumers' holiday spending on computer hardware, according to a new note from research firm comScore.
That news comes as relatively unsurprising, given the iPad's robust sales throughout the majority of 2010. However, the overall growth in hardware spending bodes well for retailers and manufacturers, looking for signs that consumers are spending again after several quarters of a deep global recession.
"Computer [h]ardware ranks as the top growing category for the holiday season to date with a 25-percent increase versus last year," reads the Dec. 19 note from comScore. "Purchases of handheld devices (such as Apple iPads and e-readers) and laptop computers drove much of the growth."
According to the research firm, consumer electronics also enjoyed a year-over-year growth of 22 percent for the period between Nov. 1 and Dec. 17. Computer software, excluding PC games, rose 16 percent. Over the course of those 47 days, consumers spent $27.47 billion online, a 12 percent increase from 2009. Moreover, the week ending Dec. 17 saw four days surpassing $900 million in sales.
"While no individual days during the week surpassed $1 billion in spending, we saw strength throughout the week beginning with Green Monday and ending with Free Shipping Day on Friday," comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni wrote in a Dec. 19 statement. "At this late juncture in the online holiday season, we have likely already witnessed the peak spending day of the year, which means that Cyber Monday should emerge as the season's heaviest online spending day for the first time in history."
Cyber Monday racked up $1.02 billion in spending, an increase of 16 percent over 2009. The day began life in 2005, as a marketing buzzword engineered to suggest that consumers used the Monday following Thanksgiving and Black Friday to click-and-purchase for their holiday gift list while at work.
The most recent Cyber Monday data suggested that consumers are using some of the latest tools-including smartphones and social-networking sites-to finish their holiday shopping. A recent analytics analysis by IBM suggested that Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have become tiny-but-growing sales channels. "While the percentage of [retail Website] visitors arriving from social network sites is fairly small relative to all online visitors-nearly 1 percent-it is gaining momentum, with Facebook dominating the space," read a Nov. 27 research note posted on IBM's corporate Website.
Meanwhile, more than 7 million people used their smartphone for Cyber Monday shopping, an increase from 4 million in 2009, according to a Nov. 28 research note from the National Retail Federation.
Rumors of Apple unveiling the next-generation iPad in January have increased in recent weeks. On Dec. 10, Reuters posted an article suggesting that front- and rear-facing camera modules will appear in that currently-hypothetical-but-likely device, along with a higher-resolution screen. Whether those rumors affect holiday shoppers' decision to buy a current iPad, though, is something unknowable until Apple issues official sales numbers.