Online Sales Growth Slows, but Remains in Double Digits

E-commerce sales gains for both Green Monday and season-to-date just miss teen levels, ComScore says.

Online growth rates this holiday season have stayed in double digits.

This story first appeared in the December 13, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

According to an update on online purchasing activity from Reston, Va.-based digital research group ComScore Inc., e-commerce purchases between Nov. 1 and Dec. 10 totaled $29.26 billion, 12.9 percent above the $25.91 billion sold during the comparable days last year.

Sales on Green Monday, Dec. 10, were up 12.5 percent to $1.28 billion from $1.13 billion, making it the third heaviest day for online buying for the season to date, behind only Cyber Monday, Nov. 26, at $1.47 billion, and Tuesday, Dec. 4, at $1.36 billion.

Last year, Green Monday sales rose 18.8 percent, breaking through the $1 billion barrier from $954 million in 2010.

At first used to refer to the strongest day of online selling in the month of December, Green Monday is now the second Monday in December and, as in 2011, trails both Cyber Monday and the preceding Tuesday.

“While Green Monday remains a very important day for the season, as consumers have gained confidence with on-time shipment delivery, there is perhaps less urgency than there once was to make those final purchases at least two weeks in advance of Christmas Day,” said Gian Fulgoni, chairman of ComScore. “What we’ve seen over the past few years is a tendency for heavy spending to continue late into the week of Green Monday and right up until Free Shipping Day, which this year falls on Dec. 17.”

Free Shipping Day generally is the last day that consumers can avail themselves with free shipping privileges from online retailers and still be guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.

ComScore reported that gains on Green Monday were driven by a 10.7 percent increase in transactions, to 15.9 million; a 6.6 percent rise in spending per buyer, to $140.95, and a 5.5 percent increase in the number of buyers, to 9 million. Transactions per buyer rose 4.8 percent, to 1.76, while spending per transaction ticked up 1.6 percent, to $80.11.

While somewhat slower than growth in recent years, online sales have continued to outperform overall retail sales by a wide margin — more than four times the 3 percent gains being registered by many stores. They’ve also been a major contributor, in many cases the largest, to sales gains among brick-and-mortar retailers.

Although ComScore doesn’t report precise sales numbers for product classifications, it does provide percentage gains, for the season to date, for categories that have outperformed overall spending patterns. So far this year, sales gains have been led by digital content and subscriptions, up 22 percent; toys, up 18 percent; video game consoles and accessories and consumer electronics, both up 15 percent, and computer hardware, up 14 percent.

Apparel and accessories and health-beauty products failed to qualify. ComScore noted that consumer electronics purchases are being led by sales of smartphones, themselves a principal component of increased online buying activity.

The data for the results so far this season imply that online sales for the period spanning Dec. 3 and Dec. 10 rose 9.1 percent, to $7.91 billion, from $7.25 billion in 2011.