June 2, 2011, 9:38 AM

E-commerce keeps growing

Online spending increased 16% in May, MasterCard says, with apparel sales strong.

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Online spending in May increased 15.9% year over year, the seventh straight month of double-digit growth for e-commerce, according to an estimate released today by MasterCard Advisors, the consulting arm of MasterCard Worldwide. May marked the 22nd month of positive gains for e-commerce. By comparison, online spending increased 19.2% in April year over year, according to the payment card network’s SpendingPulse report.

MasterCard bases the SpendingPulse report on retail sales using all payment forms, including credit and debit cards of all brands, along with cash and checks. As is often the case, this month’s report did not include actual spending in dollars, either for e-commerce or all retail sales.

But e-commerce appears to have held its own in what MasterCard says was a relatively flat month for retail spending. May’s results suffered, MasterCard says, from comparison with April, when a late Easter, which fell on April 24, produced a spending bump, followed by slower sales.

“Because the late Easter holiday boosted April’s year-over-year comparisons in some sectors, the May growth rates can look flattened by comparison, especially in apparel, luxury and groceries, where the growth rates were only about half what they were in April,” says Michael McNamara, vice president, research and analysis, for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse.

Overall apparel sales—this includes bricks-and-mortar spending—increased 5.9% in May compared with the same month last year, according to SpendingPulse; that marks the 18th consecutive monthly gain for the apparel sector. But online apparel sales did much better, gaining 19% in May, higher than the 17.9% year-over-year increase recorded for April.

MasterCard offered no other figures specifically for e-commerce spending, but did note that luxury spending in May increased 4.7%, lower than the 9.6% growth for April and the lowest rate of growth for the luxury spending so far this year.

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