E-Commerce Sales, Outlook Less Than Fantastic

Online retailers got a shot in the arm last Monday and Tuesday, but growth in overall sales this season is well off from last year, according to new figures from online metrics firm comScore.

Last Monday, total online spending reached $881 million – a 33 percent jump from the same day a year ago. In that sense, “Green Monday” – the name eBay has given to the second Monday in December when online shopping is heaviest – lived up to its hype.

Tuesday was no slouch either, with online shoppers spending $819 million. That was the third day this year when spending broke the $800 million mark, following Thursday, Dec. 6, when online retailers posted $803 million in sales.

Considering that following Cyber Monday and the Thanksgiving crush, comScore was predicting that peak one-day spending this season would come close to $800 million or move only slightly past that mark, last Monday was a blockbuster day.

“Despite the strong surge in spending we observed at the beginning of last week,” comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement, “the remainder of the week saw more modest spending.”

So far, comScore has reported that total online spending this holiday season – at $22.67 billion as of Dec. 14 – has grown 18 percent over last year. At the same point in 2006, e-commerce spending was up 26 percent from 2005.

This year, comScore is predicting a 20 percent rise in online spending for the months of November and December compared with the same period last year.

Total e-commerce spending this season has been weighted down by lower-income households. This holiday season, households with incomes below $50,000 have only spent 10 percent more online than they did last year, comScore has reported. By contrast, households with incomes over $100,000 have increased online spending this season by 28 percent.

That sales are falling off among lower-earning households suggests that a darkening economic picture is finally hitting e-commerce. comScore Senior Analyst Andrew Lipsman told InternetNews.com that growing economic uncertainties that put the brakes on overall consumer spending could temper growth rates for online retailers, but to a much lesser extent than their bricks-and-mortar counterparts.

With the free-shipping offers guaranteeing delivery by Dec. 24 expiring on many retailers’ sites Tuesday, comScore is predicting another lift in online spending.

Whether that uptick will be enough to meet comScore’s prediction of 20 percent growth for the season remains to be seen, but the message heading into the new year is clear enough: The belt tightening has already begun.

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