Online sales grew 14% during the holiday season

by The City Wire staff ( 6 views 

Consumers spent $42.3 billion online between Black Friday and New Year’s Eve, which marked a 14% increase from the same period in 2011, according to comScore.

The latter portion of the season saw several days with particularly strong growth, including Free Shipping Day on Monday, Dec. 17 (up 76 % to $1.013 billion) and Christmas Day (up 36% to $288 million), but they could not make up for the spending growth shortfall earlier in the month.

While the holiday season started off with strong growth rates on the upper end of the mid-teens through the heavy promotional period, a December swoon in consumer confidence gave way to softer than expected buying during the critical shopping weeks in early to mid-December, from which growth rates never fully recovered.        

“This year’s growth rate is essentially on a par with last year’s. But despite many positives for the online sector, this year’s season did not quite perform up to our initial expectation for growth rates in excess of 16% as we fell a billion dollars short of our expected total of $43.4 billion,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.

Online sales started out at a very healthy 16% growth rate through the promotional period of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but consumers almost immediately pulled back on spending, apparently due to concerns over the looming fiscal cliff and what that might mean for their household budgets in 2013. With Congress deadlocked throughout December, growth rates softened even further and never quite made up enough ground to reach our original expectation, Fulgoni added.

As it turns out, this December swoon coincided closely with a significant decline in the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index that was attributed in large part to consumers’ fiscal cliff concerns.

Fulgoni says,”You might say that had it not been for Congress, every other indicator suggested it would have been an even merrier Christmas for online retailers. While growth in the mid-teens for the season is still very encouraging – and certainly many times better than brick-and-mortar – it was perhaps a slightly disappointing result given the initial expectations."