NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- No one expected real growth in the e-commerce sector this holiday season, but few expected it to actually drop as it did.
ComScore's end-of-season online sales figures put the tally at $25.5 billion, down 3% from $26.3 billion a year ago. To come up with those figures, ComScore measured the same number of days, this year looking at sales between November 1 and December 26.
The total falls short of ComScore's original forecast of flat e-commerce sales. Fourth quarter e-commerce sales to date are down 4%, a reversal of the period from January to October, when e-commerce sales grew 9% over the year-ago period.
Retail has battled a number of negative forces this year: a poor economy, shortened holiday season (five fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year vs. last year) and a wet, snowy weekend before Christmas.
Unique visitors up
While e-commerce sales were down, unique visitors to retail websites during the holiday shopping season were actually up 5%, suggesting that more people were shopping online -- just not spending as much as in past years. The most-visited e-commerce sites were eBay, Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com. Interestingly, data from another web-measurement firm, Hitwise, suggested that fewer households making $150,000 a year or more were shopping online this holiday season than in the past.
Amazon.com released an upbeat report of its holiday sales, calling its 14th season its "best ever." It sold 6.3 million items -- or almost 73 items a second -- on the peak day of Dec. 15. However, the company did not release total sales figures to support its claim.