By  on February 10, 2013

Apparel and accessories were a standout category online during the fourth quarter as e-commerce volume grew 14.3 percent to $56.78 billion, according to year-end figures released Thursday by digital monitoring firm ComScore Inc.

While the dollar volume was easily the largest ever for a single quarter, the percentage increase was the smallest of the four quarters of the year, followed by 15.1 percent growth in the second quarter. Full-year e-commerce revenues rose to $186.15 billion, and their 15.3 percent increase over 2011 levels marked the strongest year-over-year growth since before the recession.

“The only real blemish on an otherwise outstanding year for e-commerce was a holiday season that fell shy of initial expectations, apparently due to consumers’ fiscal-cliff concerns,” said Gian Fulgoni, chairman of the Reston, Va.-based company. “To the extent that this pullback was just a temporary shock and not a sign of underlying economic weakness, we are optimistic that 2013 will build on the momentum of the past year.”

Apparel and accessories was among five categories that grew at least 15 percent during last year’s final three months. The others were digital content and subscriptions; consumer electronics; toys and hobbies, and books and magazines.

ComScore said U.S. retail e-commerce in the fourth quarter reached 10 percent of total U.S. retail spending, excluding food, gas and automotive products, the first time it had reached a double-digit level of penetration.

The quarterly increase included a 6 percent increase in the number of buyers, amplified by an 8 percent boost in spending per buyer, ComScore noted.

Fourth-quarter and full-year e-commerce spending in 2011 reached $49.7 billion and $161.51 billion, respectively. In 2010, the comparable figures were $43.43 billion and $142.49 billion.

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