Online Sales Surge In Third Quarter, Led By ... Toys?

Americans are shopping up a storm online, and spent a cool $28.4 billion on retail e-commerce in the third quarter, up 23% from the same period a year ago. And toys were among the strongest categories, reports comScore, Inc., the Reston, Va.-based company that tracks online sales.

The news is surprising, not only because consumers normally hold off on toy purchases until the fourth quarter, but because the third quarter was also marked by massive toy recalls, most due to lead paint on toys made in China.

"Given some of the uncertainty surrounding the holiday season, it's possible that consumers were responding to fears of toy shortages and making their purchases early," comScore says in its release. "In addition, it could be that consumers were replacing recalled toys with other new toys. We'll be closely monitoring growth rates in the fourth quarter to see if these positive trends continue, or if what we're seeing is simply a short-term reaction to the recalls."



The biggest growth online, though, came from the video games, consoles and accessories category, which nearly tripled its sales, increasing 199% over the same period the prior year. (The gains were fueled by Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3). Goosed by high-def and flat-screen TV sales, consumer electronics came in second in terms of growth--up 58% over the same quarter a year ago--followed by toys and hobbies (up 57%.)

For the first nine months of 2007, comScore says total e-commerce spending topped the $143 billion mark; and e-commerce accounts for about $84 billion, or 58%, while spending on travel online hit $60 billion. By the end of the year, comScore says, total online spending will likely reach $200 billion.

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