Online sales were flat in the first quarter and might be stabilizing, according to data released Wednesday by comScore Inc. The snapshot presented a different and worse picture of the state of online retail than earlier estimates put out by the National Retail Federation and Forrester Research Inc.
U.S. consumers bought $31 billion worth of goods in the first quarter, the same amount they bought in the same period the year before, comScore said. (The number excludes travel, autos, auctions and large corporate purchases.)
In contrast, Forrester’s prediction for all of 2009 shows online retail growing at 11 percent, down from growth of 13 percent the year before. One point of agreement between the two sources is that e-tail is doing better than off-line retail.
ComScore believes the economy may be improving. Although first-quarter sales were flat, they were better than in the fourth quarter, when growth dipped into negative territory for the first time, falling 3 percent, according to comScore.
“The fact that we’re back to about even for Q1 tells us that consumer confidence is picking up,” said comScore analyst Andrew Lipsman. “Maybe some fears have been mitigated that the economy is shaking out a bit. That said, people are not yet at the point where they are heavily spending their discretionary income.”
Online shopping patterns have changed dramatically as the economy has worsened, according to the firm. In 2007, growth rates were as high as 23 percent each quarter. Growth gradually slowed to the low double digits in the first half of 2008 before retreating in the fourth quarter.
Lipsman declined to predict future sales, but said an eventual rebound is possible.
“In this economy, it’s a bit foolhardy to prognosticate too much because the economic instability is still shaking out and there are a lot of factors that are still unpredictable,” he said. “The fact that growth rates have picked up is a positive sign we might be headed in the right direction. When the economy does get to the point when we’re in recovery, it’s safe to say we’ll be getting back to not just positive growth rates for e-commerce, but pretty healthy positive growth rates like we had in the past. It may take time to get back into the mid or upper teens, but once the economy does rebound, double-digit growth rates are certainly in the realm of possibility.”
The two research companies rely on different methodologies. In its most recent study, Forrester surveyed a panel of executives at 117 large online retailers. ComScore uses software to track the dollar amount of actual sales executed by more than a million Internet users in the U.S.
ComScore believes online sales account for about 8 percent of total sales in the U.S. “We don’t know if there’s an actual threshold beyond which online will not become a bigger piece of the pie, but I don’t think 15 percent of total retail is out of the question,” said Lipsman. “There’s a cultural shift at play.”
From overseeing America’s fastest-growing speciality retailers to codifying cool, WWD talked to the women who are leading the way for the future of beauty. Check out our Instagram Stories to see how these women built today and are creating tomorrow. (📸: @hannah_khymych) #wwdbeauty
For @laperlalingerie's spring 2018 show, the brand chose to host their event at @thevenetianmacao. With Chinese megastars @bingbing_fan and @hubing in attendance, La Perla debuted a rock ‘n’ roll-inspired collection. The show marked the start of Sands Macao Fashion Week, which runs from October 19 to 24 — the city’s first such event. Pictured here are models backstage with glimmering eyes. #wwdfashion (📷: Cheuk-Yin To)
Trending for spring 2018: top stitch design. Gone are the days of stitch just for seams — designers are using the once-minimal detail to create strong decorative elements. (📷: Paola Testa; Styled by @andrew_shang) #wwdfashion
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)