March 2, 2011, 8:34 AM

February e-commerce spending jumps 13.2%

Sales increased by a double-digit rate for the fourth month in a row, MasterCard says.

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Shoppers spent $13.8 billion online in February, a 13.2% year-over-year increase, according to an estimate released today by MasterCard Advisors, the credit card company’s consulting arm.  Consumers spent $13.1 billion online in January.

February is the fourth consecutive month with double-digit online spending increases.  Plus, customers spent more money online in February this year than February last year in every category measured except department stores, MasterCard says, though the payment card network did not release figures for all categories.

The SpendingPulse unit uses surveys and data from its credit and debit card network to estimate all retail transactions. Increasing gas prices and unseasonably cold weather prompted many customers to stay at home to do their shopping in February, boosting web sales, says SpendingPulse analyst John Gamel.  “Not only are online sales doing well, e-retailers are stealing channel share from the bricks-and-mortar stores,” he says.  “One thing to watch is gasoline prices.  If they rise much higher, that will definitely help online sales even more.”

The online apparel category continued to top the list of high performers in e-commerce, but the growth rate for the category is slowing down, SpendingPulse finds.  Online apparel spending increased 15% year over year in February, compared with an average year-over-year increase of 26.9% in the fourth quarter of 2010.  Gamel blames at least part of the decline in the growth rate on the online apparel market maturing.

Meanwhile, online jewelry sales increased 7.2% year over year in February following a 9.2% decline in January. Online electronics sales increased 5.4%, the category’s sixth straight month of growth. “Online electronics sales, unlike the total electronics sales, are still in positive territory,” he says.


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