The web isn't immune to the economic slowdown, according to internet metrics company comScore.

It estimates that the growth in US spending online in October was just 1 per cent higher than the previous year - the smallest increase since it started tracking e-tailers in 2001.

In comparison, August 2007 saw growth topping 28 per cent and as recently as June, shops were enjoying double digit annual increase.

Shop sharp shock

"It's clear that the shock of the financial market meltdown has had a negative impact on the psyche of the American consumer, and the effects were clearly felt in the online retail sector," said comScore Chairman, Gian Fulgoni.

Particularly shocked, psyche-wise, were America's lower earners: families bringing home less than $50,000 (£33,000) annually spent 3 per cent less than last year.

The nation's high flyers were less affected, though. Households with an annual income of over $100,000 (£66,000) actually spent 14 per cent more than the year before.

Retailers are banking on lower petrol prices and interest rates to boost spending in the holiday period.