Attention E-tailers: You're in for a Bumpy Sleigh Ride


Do you hear what we hear?

It’s the sound of cash registers closing as more consumers click their way into holiday debt.

Whether or not we’re in a recession is still the subject of controversy, but one thing’s for sure – though the dollar is comparatively weak, Americans are starved to spend it.

To be fair, as a nation we’re not eager to bequeath our Benjamins as “generously” – we’re going with that term since “absentmindedly” may be unsettling for some – as in the past (or so say industry analysts), but eMarketer’s Online Holiday Sales Forecast suggests that retail e-commerce sales will continue to grow. Take a look.

Do you see what we see?

According to the longest red bar at the bottom, online holiday sales are expected to increase by $3 billion over last year.

Curious. Very curious. Because the doom and gloom of the dominating headlines had us convinced that ol’ Kris Kringle had all but closed up shop. Wasn’t there word of a massive elf layoff? Magical toy-makers aside, eMarketer’s prediction just goes to show that even when the economic-going gets tough, Americans pitch in the best way we know how: Lying around in our jammies – cheese curls in one hand, credit cards in another.

And if you can believe it, that’s the glass half full.

Now, if you’ll kindly drink more of the Kool-Aid so that the glass shows signs of pessimism, you’ll find that the rate by which sales will grow this year (10.1%) sharply declines from percentages in the low-to-mid 20ish range over the past few years.

Jeffrey Grau, senior analyst at eMarketer, admits that the blunt of this stunted growth burden falls squarely on our weakened economy, but it also has much to do with the maturation of the online shopping channel – that is, the number of new people turning to the Internet to make purchases is less than those already there. This trend is also evident in a spending-shift survey conducted by the e-tailing group and sponsored by ATG: For the first time ever, online spending among U.S. Internet users will be greater than in-store sales – 49% versus 44%, respectively. These numbers account for a 27% increase in online sales over last year, nearly balanced by a 26% decrease in store sales during the same period.

We’re not mathematicians, but if our calculations are correct, your Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa lists should be slightly longer than last year’s.

If only the stock market could see us now. We’re tooootally sticking our tongues out.

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