The Online Retail Sky Isn't Falling

Josh GordonIt was a good March 2009 for online retail. A few months into a recession of unknown length, that is excellent news. While this isn’t usually one of the key economic indicators those recovery prognosticators, it’s certainly good news for businesses and consumers alike.
According to a report from MediaPost last week, there was a 12% increase in the number of items per online order which led to a 4% bump in average purchase amount. The small percentage increase brought the average order size up from $138.26 to $143.93. In another good sign, the shopping cart conversion rate showed no impactful change.

While this is all good news, is it also encouraging news for the future? I think so, and here are a few reasons why.

First, the biggest retail gains in the month were from the jewelry sector. The encouraging 13% increase in dollar value per order is excellent because March isn’t typically a big jewelry month. No Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Sweetest Day (is that seriously a holiday), etc. Second, the health and beauty – perhaps in anticipation of Spring – got a 5.3% boost in the average order amount.

While not every retail sector saw an increase, and this March was obviously down from 2008, it’s a positive, progressive sign that the sputtering economy could be finding new momentum.

Consumer confidence has stabilized a bit after three consecutive months of decline. There is still plenty of negative economic news around, but online retail is, unsurprisingly, a bright spot. There is not a big recovery looming just around the bend, but while many sectors of the economy have been damaged or devastated by the recession, online retail remains fairly steady.

This encouraging news means online retailers can continue to seek out new technology and strategy to grow business, rather than scale-back and put all effort into keeping the doors open. That’s a good thing for everyone.


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