RESTON: Online sales in the US rose in the third quarter of 2011, indicating the e-commerce sector will enjoy a record festive period.

According to new figures from comScore, retail e-commerce spending hit $36.3bn over the three-month period, an increase of 13% from the same period in 2010. The sector has also registered double-digit annual growth in each of the last four quarters.

The comScore report added that almost three in four (74%) of US internet users had made an online purchase over the third quarter.

Buyer numbers were also up 22% year-on-year, outpacing the expenditure increase, suggesting that online retailers are being used for cheaper goods more frequently.

In common with the rest of the retail sector, e-commerce sales tend to peak in the fourth quarter of the year, with buying activity quickening for the holiday period. Sales hit an all-time high of $43.4bn in the last three months of 2010.

Gian Fulgoni, comScore's chairman, said: "As we approach the critical holiday shopping season, we are optimistic about the continued health of the e-commerce sector despite other factors – including stubbornly high unemployment and volatile financial markets – currently weighing on the economy.

"More consumers than ever before are relying on the online channel for product and pricing information, which along with the Internet's fundamental appeal of convenience and attractive pricing, are contributing to the sustained upward momentum in e-commerce spending."

On a category-by-category basis, consumer electronics, event tickets and digital content and subscriptions all outperformed, with each recording annual growth of 15% or more.

Data sourced from comScore; additional content by Warc staff