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

December 19, 2010, 9:35 PM UTC

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

Source: comScore

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]