December 6, 2010, 3:49 PM

The biggest online retailers make the big gains in market share

The 25 largest e-retailers account for almost all the growth this holiday season, comScore says.

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Online holiday season sales in November and through Dec. 3 are up 12% year over year to $16.8 billion—but the largest 25 online retailers account for nearly all the growth, comScore Inc. reports.

ComScore notes that four days last week exceeded $800 million in online sales, peaking at a single-day record of $1.028 billion on Cyber Monday, followed by $911 million on Tuesday, $868 million on Wednesday and $850 million on Thursday. Sales tapered off during the remainder of last week, bringing the week’s year-over-year increase to 9%.

The largest 25 online retailers increased their web sales 20% from Nov. 1 through Nov. 29 compared to same period last year, as their dollar share of all e-retail sales grew 4.2 percentage points to 67.8%. In comparison, web sales at small and mid-size e-retailers were flat, as their dollar share of web sales fell to 32.2% from 36.4%.

Although comScore doesn’t name the 25 largest online retailers in its study, the list closely coincides with the top 25 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, according to comScore analyst Andrew Lipsman. For purposes of its study, comScore considers all other online retailers outside of the top 25 to be small and mid-size, he adds.

ComScore didn’t break down market share or growth rates by retailer size for the first days of December.

“Cyber Monday kicked off the most recent work week with an all-time record of more than $1 billion in e-commerce spending, representing a strong 16% growth rate versus a year ago,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “While we saw three more days during the week with at least $800 million in spending, growth rates slowed to single-digit levels following several weeks at about 13%. We believe this softening is attributable to retailers’ heavy discounting and promotional activity during the earlier part of the holiday season, which pulled some consumer demand forward, resulting in a mild hangover effect in the days immediately following Cyber Monday. We may see another week of this effect before late season discounts and buying by procrastinators gives the season a final spending surge.”

Other reports have pointed to strong gains in online holiday sales. Newtek Business Services Inc., a provider of e-commerce and online payment processing software and services, says a study of more than 15,000 payment processing clients found their total sales were up 21% on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and 6% for the entire weekend Friday through Cyber Monday. Most of the increases came from Internet sales, Newtek says.

“While our online businesses are growing strongly, brick-and-mortar stores have fared only slightly better than last year,” says CEO Barry Sloane.

In the U.K., today could be the biggest online sales day of the year, experts say. Payment processing technology and services provider Retail Decisions projected that U.K. online sales would rise 21% today over the same Monday a year ago. In the peak minute today as of late afternoon U.K. time, £850,000 ($1.34 million) in online sales was recorded at 1:15 p.m. U.K. time.

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