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Online merchants got lumps of coal from Santa this holiday

December 30, 2008 |  5:23 pm
Lump of Coal

Online sales during the crucial holiday shopping period dropped 3% this year, faring worse than expected after posting annual double-digit increases for the last six years, according to a new report by ComScore. Here's how the research firm's chairman, Gian Fulgoni, put it:

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.

Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 23, U.S. online merchants rang up $25.5 billion in sales, down from $26.3 billion during the same period last year, ComScore reported. This was despite a 15% bump in sales on Cyber Monday, the first workday after Thanksgiving. The firm had initially forecast flat sales for the holiday period. The picture looks even worse when October sales are included. Sales declined 4% to $36.8 billion between Oct. 1 and Dec. 28, according to ComScore tallies.

Traffic to e-commerce sites, however, grew 5% in the December days leading up to Christmas, suggesting that shoppers were busy trolling the Web for deals. According to ComScore, sites that saw traffic grow include Amazon (up 7%), Apple (19%), Hewlett-Packard (28%) and Wal-Mart (4%). Traffic losers include EBay (down 4%), Circuit City Stores (21%), Overstock.com (16%) and Dell (17%).

Those sites are probably asking the same questions economists are: Where's bottom?

-- Alex Pham

Photo by Star5112 via Flickr

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