Online Holiday Spending Down 4%

Approximately $8.2 billion (excluding travel) has been spent online so far for the November – December holiday season, marking a 4-percent decline versus the corresponding days last year, according to comScore.

“Despite the recent reprieve that plummeting gas prices have given American consumers, the depressed and volatile stock market, declining housing prices, inflation, and the weak job market all represent dark clouds hanging over their heads this holiday shopping season,” said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. “With consumer confidence low and disposable income tight, the first weeks of November have been very disappointing … It’s also likely that some budget-conscious consumers are planning to wait to buy until later in the season to take advantage of retailers’ even more aggressive discounting.”

ComScore is forecasting that holiday online retail spending will be flat versus year ago and significantly lower than last year’s growth rate of 19 percent and below the retail e-commerce growth rate of 9 percent ($102 billion) that has been observed for 2008 through October.

This is the first in a series of reports on holiday e-commerce spending that the Reston, Va.-based company, which measures digital data, will be issuing during the course of the holiday season. This particular survey measured online retail spending for the first 23 days of November.

“Assuming the stock market doesn’t deteriorate materially during the season and that there is no apocalyptic news of major financial institutions, manufacturers, or retailers failing, we should see online spending growth inch back towards positive as we get deeper into the season,” Fulgoni said. “However, if there is any more significant bad news just over the horizon, all bets are off.”

Alongside its reporting of behaviorally monitored e-commerce spending, comScore is also conducting weekly surveys of approximately 500 consumers to determine attitudes and sentiment in regard to the holiday shopping season.

In the most recent survey, conducted between Nov. 21 and Nov. 24, 33 percent of consumers said they had not even begun their holiday shopping yet. They also indicated they intended to cut back on holiday spending in several ways, most notably by buying fewer gifts (47 percent of respondents) and buying less expensive gifts (46 percent). Respondents also said they planned to employ the Internet to help cut costs, by taking advantage of free shipping and/or no sales tax (39 percent).