US Holiday Retail Sales Disappoint Despite Online Boom

30 December 2003

The first post-Christmas analyses of US holiday retail sales point to a generally disappointing season, despite a boom in online shopping.

Holiday revenues across the retail sector are now thought to have climbed around 4% year-on-year, higher than last year's 2.2% rise, but slower than the 5.7% predicted by the National Retail Federation.

And late last week, discount titan Wal-Mart confirmed that its December sales increase would be at the low end of its forecast range of 3% to 5%, despite the shopping frenzy of Christmas week.

The sluggish growth was blamed on a number of factors: price-cutting by retailers; the heightened security alert just before Christmas; bad weather; and the lack of 'must-have' presents this year. Retailers are now embarking on a discounting blitz to make the best of the remaining days of the holiday season.

That said, it was a bumper Christmas for America's online retailers. ComScore Networks estimates that internet purchases (excluding travel and auction sites) totalled $11.72 billion (€9.39bn; £6.60bn) from November 1 to December 26, a year-on-year rise of 29%.

This surge caps a healthy twelve months for the etail sector. Web sales for the year as far as December 26 (again excluding travel and auctions) stood at $51.51bn according to ComScore, a 22% jump on the same period a year earlier.

The most popular online buys this Christmas were computer hardware, digital cameras, CDs, DVDs, clothes and toys.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff