A report this week from comScore shows sales from Web sites declined three percent overall this holiday shopping season, although some Web stores, such as Apple's and Amazon's, posted gains.
Despite large discounts from retailers hoping to salvage year-end sales in the face of a crumbling economy, online sales declined for the first time since comScore began tracking the numbers. Sales were tracked beginning Nov. 1 and ending on Dec. 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 three percent versus the corresponding shopping days in 2007.
"This marks the first time we've seen negative growth rates for the holiday season since we began tracking e-commerce in 2001," said comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni. "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.
Despite soft online sales this holiday season, the report shows consumers continue to shop online for the best deals. In the period of Dec. 1-24 versus the corresponding shopping days last year, several top retailers posted gains in holiday shopping traffic. Online auction site eBay remained the most visited retail site, with 85.4 million visitors, but saw a slight decline of four percent in visitors.
Three of the top five most visited sites recorded gains. Amazon sales grew seven percent to 76.2 million visitors, followed by Wal-Mart (up four percent to 51.5 million visitors). Apple was the big winner this season, with online sales up 19 percent with 35 million visitors. Target's online sales fell one percent, down to 46.8 million visitors. Technology giant Hewlett-Packard's online traffic also posted solid gains, climbing 28 percent (19.4 unique visitors) through Dec. 24.