Late season online sales fizzle

Online holiday sales from desktop computers increased a less-than-expected 10% after a late season surge failed to materialize, according to comScore.

The digital measurement firm in late November predicted online sales from desktop computers would increase 14% during the November and December time frame and reach slightly more than $48.1 billion. However, as of December 26, data from the firm showed sales were up 10% to $42.8 billion for the comparable period.

"Our expectations for the online holiday shopping season anticipated that consumers would spend heavily later into the season out of necessity to make up for the highly compressed holiday shopping calendar this year," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "Unfortunately that was not in the cards, as the final online shopping week saw considerably softer sales than anticipated, including zero billion dollar spending days — although Monday and Tuesday came close."

2013 holiday season to date vs. corresponding shopping days* in 2012
Non-travel (retail) e-commerce spending
Excludes auctions and large corporate purchases
Total U.S.: Home and work desktop computers
Source: comScore
Millions ($)
Holiday season-to-date (through Dec. 22)*
Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28)
Black Friday (Nov. 29)
Cyber Monday (Dec. 2)
Green Monday (Dec. 9)
*Corresponding days based on corresponding shopping days (Nov. 2 through Dec. 23, 2012)

The late season online slowdown was in contrast to a heady start Thanksgiving weekend. Online sales on Thanksgiving Day increased 21% to $766 million, Black Friday sales rose 15% to nearly $1.2 billion and Cyber Monday was up 18% to $1.7 billion.

"Strong momentum coming out of Thanksgiving, in addition to heavy weekend buying, suggested we would meet or exceed expectations as long as momentum continued through the final week before Christmas,” Fulgoni said, noting the most recent week fell short of those expectations. “In the end, I think we'll look back at this online holiday season as one where absolute dollar sales gains in consumer spending were held back by heavy retailer price discounting that occurred in an attempt to stimulate consumer demand, while at the same time, consumers weren't willing or able to increase their spending rate to fully compensate for the six-day shorter shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas."

For the holiday season-to-date, comScore said the categories showing the greatest increases were, video game consoles and accessories, apparel and accessories, consumer electronics, computer hardware and home and garden.

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