Online Holiday Sales Making A Comeback, Or Barely Holding Their Own?

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After a tepid start, online holiday sales seem to be picking up a bit. Online sales on Cyber Monday as measured by comScore were a healthy $846 million, up 15 percent from last year’s Cyber Monday. Online sales since Thanksgiving are up 12 percent to $2.4 billion. But overall online sales in November of $12 billion are still down 2 percent.

Can sales make up the difference over the next five weeks? As the chart above shows, holiday sales so far in 2008 (the red bars) are struggling to keep up with the levels we saw in 2007 (the dark blue bars). Maybe consumers have just been postponing purchases longer than usual, but now that the U.S. is officially in a recession that knowledge will likely have a psychological impact on people’s willingness to splurge. (I love how the recession news didn’t come out until after the Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend).

Hitwise also offers some insight into what happened on Cyber Monday in terms of Website traffic to retail sites. Overall, among the top 500 retail sites, traffic was down one percent on Cyber Monday. But online-only sites saw a traffic increase of 5 percent (versus a 4 percent decline for the sites of brick-and-mortar stores).

In the fight between Amazon and Walmart.com for online holiday dominance, Amazon came out on top with traffic increasing 21 percent on Cyber Monday. Walmart.com was the second most visited retail site.

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