Spending in the first quarter was 10% higher than the same period a year ago, nearing $34 billion, ComScore reported Friday. The double-digit increase was the first since the second quarter of 2008.
ComScore noted that the latest figures were encouraging, given the severe drop in sales during last year's economic recession. However, spending is not widespread among consumers, and is mostly being shouldered by upper-income households.
"Should the economy falter in the second half of the year and upper-income consumers return to a savings mode, we could still see growth decelerate," ComScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement. "But for the time being, this momentum is encouraging."
Spending among households with incomes of $100,000 or more was up 14% year to year in the quarter, ComScore said.
Online-only retailers continued to increase their share of e-commerce spending at the expense of multi-channel retailers, the researcher said. Larger online retailers continued to generate higher growth rates than smaller retailers, but the latter was finally beginning to see resumption in positive growth.
Another sign of an improving online economy is the advertising market. ComScore this month reported that the number of online display ads reached a 1.1 trillion in the first quarter, a 15% increase from a year ago. Total display ad spending reached $2.7 billion in the quarter, with the average cost per thousand impressions, or CPM, equal to $2.48.