Online holiday sales fall 3 percent

NEW YORK Wed Dec 31, 2008 8:05am EST

1 of 2. Kevin Woodcook uses a computer in his home in the Binaziz community near Bisbee, Arizona, May 14, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jeff Topping

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Online sales for the holiday period up to December 23 fell 3 percent from the same period last year, marking the first decline in online spending since comScore Inc started tracking online sales in 2001.

Online spending reached $25.5 billion between November 1 and December 23, the company said, noting this was below its expectations for flat sales on the same period a year ago.

Apple Inc and were among the top traffic gainers in an overall bleak period, comScore said.

Apple sites attracted 35 million visitors between December 1 and December 24, up 19 percent from a year ago, while Amazon sites drew 76.2 million visitors over the same period, 7 percent more than a year ago. Wal-Mart also saw its website traffic rise by 4 percent to a total of 51.5 million visitors.

Online auction site eBay Inc was the most visited retail site with 85.4 million visitors but its traffic declined 4 percent.

Electronics retailer Circuit City, which filed for bankruptcy, saw traffic fall off by 21 percent to 15.5 visitors.

A combination of five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the recession made the season particularly tough for retailers, Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman, said in a statement Tuesday.

(Reporting by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Gary Hill)