May 7, 2009, 12:00 AM

Q1 online sales recover, if you can call it that, from their Q4 dip

Online sales in the first quarter were flat compared to Q1 sales a year ago, comScore reports. While that is grim news by historical standards, it’s an improvement over the 3% decline that comScore measured in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The cliché of this recession-“Flat is the new up”-applied to online consumer sales in the first quarter. Online sales in the first quarter were flat compared to Q1 sales a year ago, comScore reports. While that is pretty grim news by historical standards, it’s an improvement over the 3% decline that comScore measured in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Preliminary numbers from The U.S. Department of Commerce report that Q1 total retail sales were down 8.8% from a year earlier. But factoring out the steep decline in auto sales over the past year and restaurant sales, which are not likely to occur online, total sales were flat compared to Q1 a year ago.

“Although online retail spending growth was flat in the first quarter, this does represent a slight improvement over the disappointing fourth quarter,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni, who is speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, June 15-18 in Boston, in a session entitled Understanding Consumer Behavior in an Uncertain Economy. “These results would appear to indicate that the economy is finally exhibiting some signs of stability, and with consumer confidence beginning to improve, I’m optimistic that the online channel is poised for a return to growth in the second half of 2009.”

ComScore reported the fastest growing categories for online sales:

  • Sport & Fitness, 23%
  • Books & Magazines, 19%
  • Video Games, Consoles & Accessories, 12%
  • Computer Software (excluding PC games), 12%
  • Home & Garden, 1%

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