Online Holiday Sales Rise 10%, Fall Short Of Expectations

Online holiday spending from November through Christmas on desktop computers increased 10% to $42.8 billion, falling short of the 14% gain in 2012, and the 14% projected again for 2013.

In its final e-commerce report for the holiday, comScore blamed the decline on a late-season shopping surge that never came.
“Our expectations for the online holiday shopping season anticipated that consumers would spend heavily later into the season out of necessity to make up for the highly compressed holiday shopping calendar this year,” stated comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.

“Unfortunately that was not in the cards, as the final online shopping week saw considerably softer sales than anticipated, including zero billion-dollar spending days -- although Monday and Tuesday came close.” The crucial shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was six days shorter this year, putting retailers at a disadvantage from the start.

With online sales on Thanksgiving Day up 21% from a year ago -- and up 15% and 18% respectively, on Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- the season showed strong early momentum. Through last week, sales for the first 45 days of the shopping season dating back to Nov. 2 were on track to meet or beat expectations, at $37.8 billion.

But the final week didn’t deliver the last-minute shopping frenzy predicted that would have seen e-commerce sales on the desktop reach a total of $48.1 billion in sales, according to comScore’s forecast.

“In the end, we’ll look back at this online holiday season as one where absolute dollar sales gains in consumer spending were held back by heavy retailer price discounting that occurred in an attempt to stimulate consumer demand,” said Fulgoni, adding that shoppers didn’t boost spending enough to compensate for the briefer shopping window this year.

Cyber Monday turned out to be the heaviest shopping day, with $1.73 billion in sales, followed by Tuesday, Dec. 3 ($1.41 billion) and Monday, Dec. 9 (Green Monday), at $1.4 billion. Despite the hype around Black Friday, (Nov.29), the day after Thanksgiving finished as only the fifth-busiest shopping day, with $1.2 billion in sales.

The 10 days with more than $1 billion in spending was down from 12 last year.

Categories that enjoyed the biggest sales gains over last year included video game consoles and accessories, apparel and accessories, consumer electronics, computer hardware and home and garden products.

In November, comScore had separately projected that holiday online sales from smartphones and tablets would add another $7.1 billion for a digital e-commerce total of $55.2 billion. The firm didn’t provide a mobile spending total on Thursday, but said it would release a quarterly m-commerce analysis in February.

However, mobile sales accounted for almost 29% of online sales -- up 40% over 2012, according to IBM’s latest digital benchmark report, released today. Mobile traffic this holiday season made up nearly half (48%) of all online traffic, up 28.3% compared to a year ago.
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