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Online retail spending slows to a crawl in October

Consumer spending on e-commerce sites grows 1 percent in October, the slowest month since ComScore began keeping track.

Consumer spending on e-commerce sites grew just 1 percent during October compared with the same month a year ago, according to ComScore.

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In fact, last month was the worst growth month for online retail spending since ComScore began keeping track in 2001.

Rising prices and unemployment rates, and the psychological impact of the chaos of the financial markets are to blame, according to ComScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni.

But the dip in spending can't be too much of a shock to those who watch ComScore's monthly reports carefully. The preceding six months featured declining growth rates--April saw 15 percent growth, and by August spending online had increased just 8 percent.

Spending has dropped off the most for households that make below $50,000 per year, according to ComScore's figures. From August to October this year, their spending dropped 3 percent compared with the same period last year. For households making between $50,000 and $100,000, their spending increased 1 percent. Households making more than $100,000 increased their spending during that time by 14 percent.

Retailers both online and off are fretting how the economic downturn will affect this year's holiday sales. E-commerce giants and eBay both offered dim holiday outlooks during their third-quarter earnings reports.

In response, earlier this month ComScore recommended that online retailers should seriously consider generous coupon offers and free shipping to encourage consumers to spend in the coming months.