November 1, 2010, 3:02 PM

Big e-retailers get bigger in Q3

The top 25 online retailers accounted for 70% of sales.

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U.S. online retail sales increased 9% in the third quarter, comScore reports today, calling it “a fairly positive indicator for the upcoming holiday season.” That follows 9% year-over-year growth in the second quarter and 10% growth in the first quarter, according to comScore, which makes its estimates based on the activity of some 2 million consumers who agree to have their online behavior tracked.

Total U.S. e-retail sales were $32.133 billion in Q3, comScore says. It was the fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth in e-retail sales, following four quarters of flat or negative growth during the recession, according to the web measurement firm.

Despite what he calls solid growth in the third quarter, comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni says, “We continue to preach caution due to the continuation of high unemployment, which is creating very divergent spending patterns between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots.' Even Americans who do have jobs still aren't confident enough to spend freely and many are still pained by their loss of wealth since the financial crisis struck in 2008.

“That and a higher consumer savings rate leaves less money for spending. Until the economy begins adding jobs at a meaningful rate, the lack of spending power among consumers will continue to be a drag on purchasing, with many consumers indicating their intention to cut back on gift buying this holiday season."

The largest online retailers gained the most in Q3, comScore says. The top 25 online retailers accounted for 70% of sales, up 5.5 percentage points from the same period last year. Web-only retailers accounted for 58% of sales, unchanged from the prior year.

41% of online purchases included free shipping, comScore says, down slightly from last year.

The top-performing categories were books and magazines (excluding digital downloads), computers/peripherals/PDAs, computer software (excluding PC games) and consumers electronics.

The U.S. Commerce Department, which estimates online retail sales based on a survey of retailers, will release its third quarter report Nov. 17.


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