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The economy is doing so poorly that even e-tail is flopping around like a goldfish out of its tank.
Market watcher comScore (Nasdaq: SCOR ) is projecting that nontravel e-commerce spending clocked in at $24.7 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 21 this year, a 1% dip from the nearly $25 billion in Internet shopping during the same 51 days last year. It's a dramatic turnaround from the 9% gain that comScore reported during the first 10 months of the year.
Don't hold out for salvation beyond that, as Web-based retail dies beyond gift-card purchases once conceivable shipping deadlines pass.
This is not good. The malls have been understandably empty given the soft economy, but weren't consumers supposed to flock online to find huge deals?
One can't take a third-party source like comScore as gospel, but the cracks were already starting to show. Online jeweler Blue Nile (Nasdaq: NILE ) has been posting stateside year-over-year sales declines all year long, but it apparently has company this season.
Analysts see companies like online auctioneer eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) and closeout specialist Overstock.com (Nasdaq: OSTK ) posting lower revenue this quarter. Market bellwether Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) is bucking the trend, for now. Analysts see revenue climbing by a refreshing 14% this quarter.
Amazon should outperform the industry. Its wildly successful Prime membership program that offers expedited shipping is a viral winner. Once you pay Amazon $79 for a year of free two-day shipping in the Prime program, it encourages shoppers to lean on the site whenever a purchase decision is being made.
This doesn't mean that Amazon is a money-printing mint. It issued holiday quarter guidance of 6% to 23% in revenue growth for the current quarter. That doesn't sound too shabby, but the midpoint of its profit guidance calls for a dip in operating profitability. Oh, and that guidance was issued more than two months ago. The economy certainly hasn't improved since then.
Is this the end of the line for e-tail? Is the migration over? Real-world retail is also doing horrendously poorly, so let's wait until the general retail economy bounces back before burying the e-commerce miracle to rest.
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