May 10, 2011, 2:13 PM

E-retail sales jump 12% in Q1

E-commerce registered its second consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, comScore reports.

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Online retail sales increased 12% in the first quarter of 2011 over the same period a year ago, the second consecutive quarter of double-digit growth and sixth quarter in a row of year-over-year growth, web measurement firm comScore Inc. reported today.

E-commerce sales in the U.S. totaled $38.00 billion in the first three months of this year versus $33.98 billion in Q1 2010, comScore says.

“Domestic retail e-commerce built on the success of a strong 2010 holiday season with another encouraging quarter here in the first three months of the year,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “Faced with rapidly rising gas prices and stubbornly high unemployment, consumers continued to take advantage of the Internet’s lower prices by shifting their spending from offline retail stores. In fact, in the first quarter, the growth in e-commerce spending was roughly double that observed at offline retail. While we would expect online buying to dampen slightly if gas prices continue to eat into discretionary spending, it’s clear that e-commerce has become a mainstay in consumer behavior, driven by the attraction of both lower prices and convenience.”

The top 25 online retailers’ share of e-commerce sales held steady at 67.7%, the same as Q1 2010 and down from a 2010 peak of 70%, suggesting small and midsized e-retailers have taken back market share from the largest merchants.

The top-performing online categories were video games, consoles & accessories, books & magazines, computers/peripherals/PDAs, consumer electronics and computer software (excluding computer games). Each of those categories grew by at least 13% year over year in the first quarter.

The number of online buyers grew 7% and transactions per buyer increased 9%, but the average dollar value of an online purchase declined 4%, comScore says.

ComScore’s estimates are slightly less bullish than those of MasterCard SpendingPulse, the research arm of payment network MasterCard Worldwide. MasterCard estimated year-over-year e-commerce sales growth of 12% in January, 13.2% in February, 16.1% in March and 19% in April.

The two firms use different methods to come up with their estimates. MasterCard draws on data from its credit and debit card network and surveys of spending with other card brands, cash and checks. ComScore compiles its data by tracking the online spending of some 2 million consumers who have given their permission to be monitored, about half of them in the U.S.

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