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Holiday Season Sales Fall Short

Fiscal cliff likely affected online spending, official says.

Shoppers spent a lot less than experts expected during the 2012 holiday season, though sales did grow by double digits.

Researcher comScore reported on Thursday that sales from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 reached $42.3 billion, a 14-percent increase compared to the 2011 holiday season when sales totaled $37.17 billion.

That’s still a gain, but experts had projected sales would increase by more than 16 percent, says comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni.

“We fell $1 billion short of our expected total of $43.4 billion,” he notes. “While November started out at a very healthy 16-percent growth rate through the promotional period of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers almost immediately pulled back on spending, apparently due to concerns over the looming fiscal cliff and what that might mean for their household budgets in 2013.”

During the first four weeks of the 2012 holiday season, shoppers spent 15 percent to 17 percent more than they did the previous year, comScore finds. However, on week five, sales only grew by 11 percent year over year. The following week, sales were up by just 9 percent year over year, reaching about $6.63 billion. Week nine saw an increase of just 1 percent.

“While it is typical to see growth rates subside slightly during the week after Thanksgiving, the amplified and sustained lull this year came as something of a surprise,” Fulgoni continues.

He says that if Americans had not had the fiscal cliff on their minds, indicators suggest it might have been a merrier Christmas for online sellers.

“Growth in the mid-teens for the season is still very encouraging—and certainly many times better than brick-and-mortar—[but] it was perhaps a slightly disappointing result given the initial expectations,” he reports.

The biggest buying day of the 2012 holiday season was Cyber Monday, the day after Thanksgiving, when sales reached $1.46 billion.

Take another look at the 2012 holiday season and see how it compared to 2011.

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About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Any company should be happy with any increases in sales, after all more sales is always better then stagnant or no sales.But we are never satisfied with anything less then what we want for percentages of increase. Problem is personal income has never kept up to inflation increases over the years. So the addiction to increases is harder, as time goes by, to achieve. 14 percent during the current economic is pretty darn good, too bad about that 2% they didn’t get, LOL.

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