Online holiday shopping season ends down

December 31, 2008

Online holiday shopping season ends down After a bit of a slow spot, online shopping rebounded slightly near the tail end of the holiday shopping season. However, the bounce back wasn’t enough to avoid the first drop in online sales since 2001.

Comscore has been tracking online sales for the past eight years since 2001. In that time, online holiday sales have grown every year. This year saw sales slip by 1percent by the end of the season.

This year’s online gift shopping started out with a sputter that caused the online retail industry to take note. Many retailers offered discounts or footed the bill for shipping in order to attract customers.

However these deep discounts caused the average size of an online transaction to shrink noticeably. Overall, each individual online sale was down by 12 percent.

While these may seem like relatively minor misses, they can really put the squeeze on retailers in short order. While sales were only off by one percent, discounts and free shipping can quickly erode a retailer’s profit margin.

The online sales picture for the year is similarly daunting. Sales from online stores could be off by 4 percent at the end of the year and 2009 isn’t likely to get a much rosier outlook.

There were some bright spots in this year’s shopping numbers, especially for bargain stores. Amazon and Wal-Mart both grew their online shopping market share this year due to deep discounting.

Apple bucked the downward trend by growing its number of online shoppers by 19 percent during the period. This growth is being attributed to strong sales of the iPod Touch.

The iTunes App Store received a rush of traffic in the days after Christmas. The spike is ostensibly related to traffic from new iPod Touch owners that were eager to try out new applications.

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