Report: Online Spending Hits Summer Snag

Online consumer spending has stagnated at a mid-summer plateau, according to figures released Friday by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Forrester Research.

The latest NRF/Forrester Online Retail Index shows that online sales expanded steadily from $2.8 billion (US$) in January to over $4 billion in July. However, sales grew from $4.01 billion in June to $4.03 billion in July, an increase of just 0.5 percent.

Smooth Ride

Online sales have grown every month this year, except for February, when spending dipped to $2.4 billion from $2.8 billion in January.

“The results of the July Index didn’t come as a surprise, since, historically, less shopping goes on in the summer months,” said NRF vice president Scott Silverman. “We look forward to seeing how online shopping trends evolve as we move into fall — and particularly in light of the upcoming holiday season.”

The online spending plateau corresponds with the flattening of overall U.S. consumer spending in July. According to a report released last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce, July retail sales in the U.S. were up by only 0.7 percent from sales in June. Total retail sales in July were $270.6 billion, after adjustments for seasonal and trading-day differences.

Big Ticket, Small Ticket

For big-ticket items, the highest sales increase occurred in the appliances category, jumping to $50 million in July from the June figure of $30 million. In addition, big-ticket e-tailers in furniture sales, car rentals, airline tickets, and consumer electronics enjoyed increased sales.

Computer hardware experienced the largest decrease for big-ticket items, falling from $424 million in June to $377 million in July. The only other big-ticket loser was hotel reservations.

As for the small-ticket categories, office supply vendors saw the greatest increase — from $110 million in June to nearly $150 million in July. Other small-ticket winners were videos, apparel, footwear, and sporting goods.

Losers in the small ticket category included garden supplies, jewelry and music.

Consumers Say

The NRF/Forrester Online Retail Index measures online spending levels on a monthly basis. The Index is based on 5,000 responses during the first 10 business days of the month from a panel of online shoppers.

The panel was set up by market research firm Greenfield Online. The monthly panel is also weighted to Forrester Research’s Benchmark Panel, which surveyed nearly 90,000 U.S. and Canadian consumers.

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