comScore today reported its tracking of holiday season retail e-commerce spending for the holiday shopping season, beginning November 1 and ending December 23, the last day to purchase online with the possibility of delivery by Christmas Eve. Online spending reached $25.5 billion during that period, down 3 percent versus the corresponding shopping days in 2007.
“The 2008 online holiday shopping season has declined 3 percent versus year ago, falling behind our expectation of flat sales this year,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni, in the press release. “This marks the first time we’ve seen negative growth rates for the holiday season since we began tracking e-commerce in 2001. 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.”
The growth rate for Q4 2008 to date compared to the same period a year ago will end up looking marginally worse than the holiday season results. For the period of October 1 – December 28 compared to the same calendar days in 2008, e-commerce spending is down 4 percent 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 December 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, while 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).