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US visits to online retail websites have declined for the eighth consecutive week: For the week ended Oct. 25 visits to a custom category of 500 retail websites declined 3% from a year earlier, according to data from Hitwise, an Experian company, writes Retailer Daily.

The Hitwise Retail 500 Index accounted for 2.92% of all US web visits for the week ended Oct. 25, 2008. In 2007, that figure was 3%. The Index excludes auction, classifieds, DVD rental and book/music/DVD of the month club sites.

The declines are the first drops in retail traffic this year and reflect the reaction of consumers who have decreased spending in the current economic climate, Hitwise said. Visits to the Retail 500 Index increased 14% June through August in 2008 compared with the same time in 2007, but then declined 4% in September 2008.

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“These declines have strong implications for the upcoming online holiday season as well as offline sales. Everyone is aware of the role that the internet plays to influence offline sales through research, so this slowdown may indicate a further ripple effect in sales in retail locations,” said Heather Dougherty, research director at Hitwise.

Top Retail Categories

Health and Beauty, Grocery and Alcohol, and the House and Garden categories experienced the largest growth year over year among the product categories for the week ended Oct. 25.

Top shopping categories, ranked by year-over-year market share of visits percentage decline, according to Hitwise:

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  • Visits to the Music category declined most (21%) among the product categories for last week.
  • The Computers category had an 18% decline, followed by Ticketing, with a 15% decrease in visits.
  • Toys and Hobbies, and Video and Games website visits dropped 10% each.

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