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E-Commerce Can’t Escape Retail Woes

Holiday e-commerce sales decline 3 percent.

Even online sales couldn’t escape the retail erosion of 2008.

ComScore Inc. reported Tuesday that total e-commerce revenues for the holiday season dipped 3 percent, to $25.54 billion from $26.33 billion during the corresponding shopping days of 2007.

The results covered the period between Nov. 1 and Dec. 23.

Noting that the result fell “behind our expectation of flat sales,” ComScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said, “this marks the first time we’ve seen negative growth rates for the holiday season since we began tracking e-commerce in 2001.”

The direction of online sales improved marginally during holiday as the 3 percent decline was smaller than the 4 percent drop recorded in e-commerce during the fourth quarter of the calendar year to date.

In December, individual retailers did record advances in online visits, although eBay, the most frequently visited site, saw a 4 percent drop in unique visitors, to 85.4 million. Macy’s Inc., owner of the 15th most visited site, picked up 1 percent for a total of 15.9 million visitors. The largest gain came from Hewlett-Packard (up 28 percent to 19.4 million), followed by Apple Inc. (up 19 percent to 35 million). Amazon.com sites gained 7 percent, securing their second-place honors with 76.2 million visitors, and third-place Wal-Mart Stores Inc. logged 51.5 million visitors, a 4 percent increase for the month.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc.’s Web visitor count dropped 11 percent to 18.9 million in December, ComScore said, and other double-digit declines were registered by Circuit City Stores Inc. (off 21 percent), Dell Inc. (17 percent), Overstock.com (16 percent) and AmericanGreetings Property (15 percent).

Target Corp. had the fourth busiest site of those surveyed, but unique visitors dropped 1 percent to 46.8 million.

E-commerce sales for the year, through Dec. 23, remain 6.5 percent ahead of last year’s pace — $127.68 billion versus $119.88 billion — due to a 9 percent gain in revenues during the first 10 months of the year.