SAO PAULO, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Online retail sales in Brazil will likely slip in the third quarter from a year ago, according to the country's longest-running e-commerce survey, as a sharp economic downturn hits even sectors accustomed to robust structural growth.
A drop in online sales this quarter, which appears likely based on July and August numbers, would be the first in the 15-year history of the E-bit survey, said Pedro Guasti, head of institutional relations for online services provider Buscapé Company, on Wednesday.
Still, year-end holiday promotions and rising average ticket prices should lift sales 15 percent in 2015 to 41.2 billion reais ($11.8 billion). At the start of the year, E-bit had forecast 20 percent annual sales growth.
"This is the worst quarter of the year, right now. So we're hitting bottom and should recover soon," said Guasti. "E-commerce is feeling the impact of the economic crisis just like everyone else.
The number of online shoppers in the first half of 2015 fell 7 percent from a year earlier, as "light users" in Brazil's emerging middle class held off making purchases due to greater indebtedness, accelerating inflation and rising unemployment.
A slight rise in volumes and a 13 percent bump in the average purchase price contributed to 16 percent sales growth through June this year, according to E-bit, which surveys transactions on more than 21,000 websites.
The sharp depreciation of the Brazilian real, which has declined 24 percent against the U.S. dollar so far this year, has driven up the cost of imported electronics and photography equipment, which has risen as a share of Brazilian e-commerce.
Consumer inflation is running near 10 percent annually in Brazil, and an online price index that E-bit runs with economic research firm FIPE showed year-on-year rises in the second quarter, reversing more than a year of aggressive price wars.
Traditional retail sales volumes fell 2.2 percent in the first half of the year, according to government statistics agency IBGE, after sinking on a seasonally adjusted basis for five straight months - the longest consumer slump in 14 years.
E-bit is a research division of Brazil's Buscapé Company, which is controlled by South African media conglomerate Naspers Ltd.
$1 = 3.51 Brazilian reais Reporting by Brad Haynes; Editing by Christian Plumb