Times are still tough but don’t tell that to online shoppers, who are apparently buying more items and spending more on orders.

That’s according to Coremetrics, which announced the results of a Benchmark Survey that looked at the sales of 150 top online retailers in the UK in the two weeks leading up to December 7.

The survey found that shoppers spent a whopping 94% more on each online order during this time when compared to 2008. And they purchased more goods — and average of 3.7 items per order, up from 2.7 in 2007.

According to Coremetrics VP Richard Sheppard, consumers are feeling better about the economy, and they’re using the internet to find the best deals:

What is interesting about this year’s benchmark data is how UK consumers are clearly feeling much more optimistic about the economy than last year, with the average value of an order up 94 percent in just twelve months.  The recession has had a huge impact on online sales, but the Benchmark figures demonstrate that more shoppers than ever are going online in search of great deals.

Interestingly, things may not be as rosy across the pond. In the US, Coremetrics has tracked a more modest 6% gain year-over-year in online retail sales from December 1 to December 14. Following this year’s Cyber Monday, average order value fell 6.7%, and items per purchase rose only 2%. According to John Squire, Coremetrics’ Chief Strategy Officer:

… sales seem to have peaked on Cyber Monday, largely due to the aggressive and extremely attractive promotions and special offers that many retailers offered early in the season. Consumers seem to have done the bulk of their shopping earlier than in past seasons and we anticipate that sales will stay largely flat through the rest of December as shoppers focus on last-minute gifts and not on big-ticket items.

Obviously, the comparison between US and UK data isn’t apples-to-apples, as the time periods looked at are different, and the number of US online retailers tracked by Coremetrics Benchmark — 500 — is larger than the UK sample which showed astounding growth.

Even so, this is interesting data. What does it all mean? My perspective:

  • It’s not surprising that there has been improvement after the retail disaster known as 2008. In the UK, if you skip 2008 and go back to 2007, the growth in average order value this year was 54%.
  • Consumers are consuming, but they’re not being conspicuous.
  • There’s probably a lot of variability amongst the results seen by individual online retailers; more so than in the past because the economy has impacted many retailers in very different ways.

The real question: what happens once the holiday season is over? This holiday season may prove to be tolerable. But if retailers have to wait another year for a big reprieve, there will be more than a few New Year’s hangovers.

Photo credit: wearitdotcom via Flickr.