One of the most significant headlines from the just completed 2010 holiday buying season will be the explosion of online retail sales, and along with that, the agility of logistics and supply chain providers to support this exploding channel of commerce.

According to MasterCard’s SpendingPulse eCommerce Index, which monitors actual spending across the entire spectrum of online transactions, 2010 online sales rose a healthy 15.4 percent from 2009 to reach a level of $36.4 billion. Retailers and B2C providers were obviously innovative in gearing merchandising programs towards the web, particularly in spurring sales for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday events.  Sales for the Black Friday weekend were up a whopping 34.5 percent from the prior year.  It is also interesting to note the categories that saw the most growth, which included apparel, jewelry, and of-course, consumer electronics.  These categories are noteworthy because they each reflect personal interests and tastes, and are in our view, yet another indication that consumers have become ever more comfortable with leveraging the web as a buying outlet.  These trends are also a positive reflection on the ability of e-commerce providers to practice smart inventory management, especially since many consumers waited until the last few days of the season to execute their purchases.

Logistics and transportation providers also rose to the challenge of supporting online holidays sales in the final two weeks of December.  FedEx expected to handle 63 million packages during the week of December 13, with 16 million packages expected at peak day.  UPS expected to handle shipment volumes of 430 million packages in the month of December, with 24 million worldwide packages expected on the peak day of December 22.

As we enter 2011 and beyond, one global supply chain trend is a given.  Online commerce will remain an attractive option for consumers and e-commerce and logistics providers will be the prime beneficiaries.

Bob Ferrari