Retail e-commerce grew 6 percent in 2008 to $130.1 billion, representing a substantially lower growth rate than in previous years, according to digital tracking firm comScore. Jewelry and watch sales for the year declined 12 percent.
In the fourth quarter, online retail spending declined 3 percent year-over-year, the first recorded quarter of negative growth since the Reston, Va.-based company began tracking e-commerce spending in 2001.
“The fourth quarter rounded out what was a particularly challenging year for online retailers,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “The financial market meltdown that began in the fall dramatically reduced consumers’ discretionary spending power, resulting in the first quarter of negative growth that we’ve observed. As we enter 2009 with rising unemployment and continued economic uncertainty, the first few months of the year will be especially critical in foretelling what 2009 has in store for the online retail sector.”
The fastest-growing retail category in 2008 was video games, consoles & accessories (up 29 percent vs. 2007), which continued to benefit from online sales of popular game consoles like the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Sony PlayStation 3, comScore said. Other fast-growing categories included home, garden & furniture (up 25 percent), and sport & fitness (up 25 percent), both of which benefitted from an increasing consumer willingness to complete major consumer purchases, such as furniture and home exercise equipment, online. Two of the largest online retail categories, consumer electronics (up 9 percent), and apparel & accessories (up 4 percent) both managed to grow positively in 2008.
Several other categories were not as fortunate, including music, movies & video (down 23 percent) and computer software (excl. PC Games) (down 18 percent).