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Year-end online sales shrink for first time in eight years

Latest update : 2008-12-31

For the first time after eight years of growth, online retail spending in the United States is down for the holiday period of November 1 - December 23, compared to last year. Sales, which reached $25.5 billion, were down 3%.

AFP - US online retail spending fell three percent over the holiday season compared with the same period last year, the first decline after eight years of growth, digital research firm comScore reported.

US e-commerce retail spending totalled 25.5 billion dollars during the November 1 to December 23 period, down from 26.3 billion dollars in the corresponding period of 2007, comScore said.

"The 2008 online holiday shopping season has declined three percent versus a year ago, falling behind our expectation of flat sales this year," comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement late Tuesday.

"This marks the first time we've seen negative growth rates for the holiday season since we began tracking e-commerce in 2001," he said.

"The combination of having five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the severe economic headwinds faced by consumers has made this a really tough season for retailers, both offline and online."

ComScore said e-commerce spending for the October 1 to December 28 period was down four percent compared with last year, the first full quarter to record negative growth since comScore began tracking e-commerce.

It said 2008 fourth-quarter spending reached 36.8 billion dollars, down from 38.4 billion dollars in the same period last year.

ComScore said that despite the soft online sales, some top retailers managed to register growth in the holiday period.

Online auction house eBay was the most visited retail site with 85.4 million unique visitors, down four percent from 88.9 million last year.

Online retailer Amazon.com saw traffic grow seven percent to 76.2 million visitors, followed by Wal-Mart, up four percent to 51.5 million visitors.

Target was down one percent with 46.8 million visitors while Apple was up 19 percent with 35 million visitors.

The holiday season is seen as make-or-break for many retailers and key to the struggling US economy, which relies on consumer spending for 70 percent of activity.

Date created : 2008-12-31

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