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A cold Christmas for on-line retailers?

The Tech Trader Daily site had a post today that nicely laid out the slide in e-commerce sales growth this year on a month-by-month basis. The data comes from Comscore and looks like this:
  • April: +15%
  • May +12%
  • June: +11%
  • July +8%
  • August: +6%
  • September: +5%
Clearly, it's not a pretty picture; especially for an industry that is used to growing at double digits.

What about the all-important Christmas shopping season? Will e-tailers be able to show enough growth to overcome the weakness in the months leading up to the holidays?

Don't count on it.

As the evidence increases that consumers in general are reluctant to spend, estimates for the holidays are coming down.

Despite the fact that the percentage of shoppers using the Internet continues to increase, it appears we are hitting a speed bump.

The following chart is from eMarketer and it shows that growth in holiday online sales will be the weakest in years.

E-Commerce Holiday Sales Growth
The folks at eMarketer are expecting a mere 10% growth over 2007. That would normally be considered a failure given that year-over-year growth generally tends to be in the neighborhood of 20%.

It has often been said that online shoppers are more affluent and sophisticated and, as such, would not be as susceptible to the vagaries of the general economy. eMarketer quotes pollsters who assert that shoppers are planning to reduce spending both on-line and off-line.

If you are looking for a way to play this situation as an investor, there is always the ProShares Ultra Short Consumer Services ETF (SCC). It has a broad assortment of companies that sell products and services to consumers, some on-line and some off-line. This ETF is falling back from a peak over $180 as markets have decided to ignore recent bad economic reports on consumer spending. Currently at $124.90, a patient investor can probably pick this ETF up for close to $100 if market sentiment remains positive for another week or so.

Sources:

E-Commerce Sales Growth Slows For 5th Straight Month

Online Holiday Sales Forecast

Will the Grinch Steal This Year’s Online Holiday Shopping Season?

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