Online Spending Up Even in a Down Economy

Online retail sales topped $36 billion for the third quarter of 2011. This was up 13% when compared to the same quarter a year ago and represents the fourth quarter in a row of double-digit growth. Retail sales for Q3 2011 were $36.3 billion and only a year ago during the same quarter were $32.1 billion.

U.S. E-Commerce Retail Spending

Chart by The Mac Observer from comScore data

While the fourth quarter is the biggest quarter of the year, this year has shown strong, steady growth from 2010. Gian Fulgoni, the chairman of comScore, which released the data Wednesday, 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.”

The strongest categories for online sales were: Digital Content & Subscriptions, Event Tickets, Jewelry & Watches, Consumer Electronics (excluding computer peripherals) and Computer Software. Each of these categories grew by more than 15% over last year. And much of the growth came from the 22% more buyers making purchases this year. Seventy-four percent of all Internet users made at least one purchase during the quarter.

The data suggests that the benefits of online shopping which include quick access to information regarding product and pricing, along with the convenience of shopping and delivery, and often the offer of free shipping, makes online retail a bright spot in an otherwise cloudy market.