Online Retail Sales Decline For First Time Ever

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The Internet–the engine that drove year-over-year increases in sales since its inception–is unable to overcome the economic malaise in America.

For the first 23 days of November, online sales declined 4% to $8.2 billion from $8.5 billion the same time last year, according to market-research firm comScore Inc. The firm projects that retail spending online in the months of November and December will total $29.2 billion, flat from the same period last year – a dreary sign for online retailers, many of which had grown accustomed to double-digit gains.

The figures follow numbers from October, when online sales grew only 1% versus a year earlier.

“The decline that we’re seeing is unprecedented,” said Andrew Lipsman, a senior manager at comScore. [Wall Street Journal]

That fact is frightening to people who thought that e-commerce would continue to grow despite a deep and prolonged recession (including me).

While I’ve documented scores of bad news and chilling predictions, something about this story strikes a particular nerve. Perhaps it’s because I’ve made my living pushing the web since 1997.

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