RealTime IT News

E-Commerce Spending Makes Up Lost Ground

E-commerce, holiday shopping and the economy

Amid a series of gloomy predictions and a lackluster start to the holiday season, e-commerce spending caught up with last year's mark, thanks to a strong week after Thanksgiving.

According to online metrics firm comScore, Dec. 1 to Dec. 5 saw sales jump 9 percent from the same period in 2007, an increase that was strong enough to bring the total seasonal spending in line with last year.

For the period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 5, comScore reported that online spending hit $14.92 billion, about $19 million ahead of last year.

Owing to the sour state of the economy, comScore is projecting flat year-to-year growth for the season, a sharp comedown for an online retail sector that has consistently posted annual gains at or above the 20 percent range.

Nevertheless, aggressive discounts brought shoppers out in earnest on Cyber Monday, as the Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday has become known.

This year's Cyber Monday was the second-heaviest spending day on record, as Americans logged on and opened their wallets to the tune of $846 million, a 15 percent increase from the same day last year.

The day after Cyber Monday turned in another solid performance, with spending reaching $823 million.

"Mark Twain might have said: 'Rumors of the death of online holiday shopping have been greatly exaggerated,'" comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement. "Consumers are clearly responding positively to retailers' aggressive online discounts."

While Cyber Monday sales were brisk, the figures indicate the extent to which retailers are slashing prices to court cash-strapped consumers. The number of online shoppers that day rose 22 percent over last year, but the average transaction price was down 5 percent.

"Because of the extremely attractive prices offered by a myriad of retailers, it shouldn't be surprising that nearly two million more consumers purchased online this Cyber Monday compared to last," Fulgoni said. "But, because of their reduced spending power, it's also evident that those who did buy were unable or unwilling to spend as much per person as we saw last year."

Traffic from work computers accounted for half of all online retail activity on Cyber Monday.

Going forward, the year-to-year comparison could take a hit from a quirk of the calendar. The period from Thanksgiving to Christmas is five days shorter this year than in 2007.

[cob:Special_Report]"With the compressed time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year," Fulgoni added, "we need to see continued strong growth during the critical weeks between today and Christmas if this year's shopping season is to at least match that of last year."

For the five days following Cyber Monday, eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) saw the heaviest traffic, with 36.6 million unique visitors, though that represented a 9 percent drop from the previous year. At No. 2, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) 29.5 million unique visitors, up 10 percent from the previous year.

On a percentage basis, No. 5 Apple (NASDAQ: APPL) saw the largest traffic increase of the top 10 online retailers, with 29 percent more unique visitors than in 2007.

By category, sports and fitness has seen the biggest uptick since Cyber Monday, with sales up 35 percent from the same period last year. Consumer electronics ranks No. 2, with a 24 percent increase in spending.

The category of movies, music and videos turned in the poorest performance, with year-to-year sales falling 24 percent.