Free shipping and Apple’s iPad help spark record online holiday sales

Despite the economy, Americans managed to spend $27.46 billion in 47 days

Online sales in the U.S. are up 12% this holiday season, according to a comScore report issued Sunday, driven by two factors:

  • Free shipping: Americans spent $942 million online Dec. 17, 61% more than they spent the same day last year, thanks to the more than 1,500 online merchants who participated in Free Shipping Day.
  • Electronics: Online sales of computer hardware are up 25% from 2009, according to comScore. "Purchases of handheld devices (such as Apple iPads and e-readers), and laptop computers," they write, "drove much of the growth."

Apple (aapl) is unlikely to release sales figures before its mid-January quarterly earnings report, but according to several analysts the iPad is the No. 1 most-wished-for electronics gift this holiday season -- despite Amazon's (amzn) claim that the Kindle is what most people want.

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. FORTUNE may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.

Quotes delayed at least 15 minutes. Market data provided by Interactive Data. ETF and Mutual Fund data provided by Morningstar, Inc. Dow Jones Terms & Conditions: S&P Index data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Terms & Conditions. Powered and implemented by Interactive Data Managed Solutions