January 29, 2010, 12:00 AM

E-retail holiday sales grow faster than retail as a whole

Online retail sales grew faster than total retail sales during the 2009 holiday season, as consumers continued to shift spending to the web.

During the holiday season, online retail sales grew faster than total retail sales, as consumers continued to shift spending to the web.

Total retail sales during November and December 2009 grew 1.1% over the same months in 2008, the National Retail Federation says, better than the 1% decline the NRF had predicted going into the holiday season. Online holiday sales grew 4% over last year, according to comScore Inc.

Overall retail sales came in at $446.8 billion, according to the NRF figures, which do not include sales of automobiles or at gas stations and restaurants. Web sales were $29.1 billion in November and December, comScore says, up from $28 billion last year. That suggests the web accounted for about 6.5% of holiday sales during the recent season, versus 6.3% a year ago. However, comScore does not include purchases on eBay; including those sales would increase the web`s share of holiday sales.

Retailers did a good job of managing inventory and keeping prices low during the holidays, says NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. "While the consumer appears to be spending again, double-digit unemployment numbers will remain an impediment to maintaining this momentum," she adds.

The NRF reported the following regarding December sales by category, with the first figure representing year-over-year change from December 2008 and the second comparing December 2009 with November 2009:

  • Apparel and retail sales: up 7.0% year over year, down 0.6% from November.
  • Sport goods, hobby, books and music: +3.9%, +1.6%.
  • Health and personal care, +4.8%, +0.8%.
  • Furniture and home furnishings, -3.5%, +0.3%.

Year-over-year numbers are unadjusted, but month-to-month comparisons are seasonally adjusted, the NRF says.


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