Online Holiday Spending Down 3%

Online spending reached $25.5 billion for the holiday season from Nov. 1 to Dec. 23 (the last day to purchase online with the possibility of delivery by Christmas Eve), down 3 percent versus the corresponding shopping days in 2007, according to digital tracking company comScore, which estimated that sales would be flat for the season.

“This marks the first time we’ve seen negative growth rates for the holiday season since we began tracking e-commerce in 2001,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “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.”

In the fourth quarter of 2008 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 28) e-commerce expects that spending will be down 4 percent, year-over-year, to 36.8 billion. The fourth quarter of 2008 will also mark the first full quarter to record a negative growth rate since comScore began tracking e-commerce.

Despite soft online sales this holiday season, consumers continued to shop online for the best deals. In the period of Dec. 1-24 vs. the corresponding shopping days last year, several top retailers achieved growth in visitation to their sites.

EBay remained the most visited retail site with 85.4 million visitors but saw a slight decline of 4 percent in visitors. Meanwhile three of the top five most visited sites recorded gains. Amazon Sites grew 7 percent to 76.2 million visitors, followed by Wal-Mart (up 4 percent to 51.5 million visitors), Target (down 1 percent to 46.8 million visitors), and Apple Inc. (up 19 percent to 35 million visitors).